Vermont state health officials report that laboratory results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed that the recent death of a Franklin County, Vermont resident was a result of Lyme carditis, a rare complication of Lyme disease. This is the first reported death due to Lyme carditis in Vermont.
“It’s my sad duty to report this loss,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “While Lyme disease is increasingly common in Vermont, Lyme carditis itself is very rare,” Approximately 1 percent of all Lyme disease cases reported nationally to CDC experience Lyme carditis. According to CDC, between 1985 and 2014, there were nine deaths related to Lyme carditis reported worldwide.
Lyme carditis is a rare condition that occurs when the bacteria that cause Lyme disease enter the tissues of the heart. Once in the tissue, the bacteria can interfere with the normal movement of electrical signals between the heart’s chambers, resulting in heart block. Heart block can progress rapidly, with symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Patients with Lyme carditis may also experience more common symptoms of Lyme disease, including fever, body aches and an erythema migrans rash. Lyme carditis is treated with antibiotics, and in some cases may require a temporary pacemaker.
“Lyme and other tickborne diseases can cause serious illness,” said Dr. Levine. “But Lyme disease, including Lyme carditis, is treatable.” The Health Department issued an advisory to the state’s health care providers on August 6, 2018, reminding them to ask patients suspected of having Lyme disease about cardiac symptoms, and to consider Lyme disease as a possible cause of unexplained, sudden cardiac events.
“Prevention is key,” Dr. Levine said. “It is important for everyone to take everyday actions to protect themselves from ticks, and to be aware of symptoms of illness so you can talk with your health care provider.”