DPH: A Brief History of Lyme Disease in Connecticut

A Brief History of Lyme Disease in Connecticut

{Tick on grass.}


The Connecticut Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program has maintained one of the most comprehensive Lyme disease surveillance systems in the country for approximately 30 years. Surveillance has included passive and active methods that incorporated physician-reporting and laboratory-reporting components.  Surveillance methods were conducted statewide with the exception of active physician-based surveillance, which was limited to selected areas.   

{Location of Lyme, CT }

The history of Lyme disease in Connecticut began in 1975 when a cluster of children and adults residing in the Lyme, Connecticut area experienced uncommon arthritic symptoms (1976 circular letter). By 1977, the first 51 cases of Lyme arthritis were described, and the Ixodes scapularis (black-legged) tick was linked to the transmission of the disease. During 1982, Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, was discovered and the first brochure addressing Lyme disease was developed by the Arthritis Foundation. Serology testing became widely available in Connecticut during 1984. In 1987, Lyme disease became a reportable disease. All physicians were required to report any and all cases of the disease. By 1988, the news of Lyme disease spread and national media attention began. The first federal funding for Lyme disease surveillance, education, and research became available in 1991. The first Lyme disease vaccine became available in 1997. To help determine the efficacy of the vaccine, Lyme disease was made laboratory reportable in 1998. However, the manufacturer withdrew the vaccine from the market in 2001. In 2002, the vaccine efficacy study ended, and Lyme disease was removed from the list of laboratory reportable findings; however, it remained a physician reportable disease.

Initially, with little known about Lyme disease, studies and surveys were conducted to determine the occurrence of the disease in Connecticut and factors that favor acquiring the disease. This work was done in collaboration with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the University of Connecticut, Yale University, local health departments, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current focus of the Program is on prevention.


The emergence of Lyme disease in Connecticut is attributed in large part to changes in land use. That is, land at one time used for farming has become reforested and increasingly developed for suburban residential use. These changes favor expansion of habitat that supports ticks and wildlife and therefore transmission of tick-borne diseases from animals to people in residential areas and among those who work or recreate outdoors. With no vaccine currently available, prevention is based on avoidance of tick bites through a combination of personal protection and environmental measure.

To help meet the program's mission, The Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program will continue to maintain surveillance for Lyme disease.  Surveillance methods may change over time to meet future needs. A statewide electronic laboratory reporting system, which will include Lyme disease, is being developed.

Content Last Modified on 8/13/2013 1:23:17 PM