The sudden deaths of 3 young people in the Northeastern United States have been attributed to complications of Lyme disease, Boston.com reported.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. There were 30,000 over cases of lyme disease in 2012.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each of the fatalities resulted from undetected heart inflammation -- also known as carditis -- caused by the tick-borne illness. About one percent of Lyme disease sufferers develop carditis, which is typically treatable with antibiotics or, in some cases, a pacemaker.
According to medical reports, only 4 other deaths can be attributed to heart inflammation caused by Lyme disease. While the illness is a growing problem in the Northeast, the CDC says that deaths related to the disease are still rare, Boston.com reported.
The victims in the CDC's report were not identified, but each of the deaths occurred between November 2012 and July 2013. The deceased were between 26 and 38 years old. None of the victims had been diagnosed with Lyme disease prior to their deaths.
One of the victims died in a car accident after his car veered off the road. The victim was an organ donor, and the inflammation around his heart was discovered during a pathology exam. It is believed he went into cardiac arrest while driving, Boston.com reported. The other 2 victims also died after seemingly unexplainable collapses.
Medical professionals say these deaths should bring new urgency to the search for a Lyme disease vaccine. "I think it is unconscionable and a discredit to all parties -- public health, manufacturers, Lyme activists -- that no Lyme vaccine is available to humans while there is one for dogs," Stanley Plotkin, emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and a vaccine expert, told Boston.com in an email.