Sciensano & Lyme disease

Last updated on 19-10-2018 by Thibault Degiuli

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease transmitted to man through the bite of a tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi

 

What does Sciensano do?

Sciensano provides epidemiological monitoring of Lyme disease (only in French and Dutch) by collecting information through:

  • a network of sentinel laboratories 
  • a National Reference Centre for Borrelia burgdorferi
  • a network of sentinel general practitioners.

In addition to this, data on tick bites are collected since June 2015 via the internet site Tick Net (only in French, Dutch and German)

Sentinel laboratories

Since 1991, a network about forty laboratories (only in French and Dutch) in Belgium inform Sciensano weekly of the number of positive results of serological tests carried out to screen  for the presence of antibodies against the bacteria Borrelia.

This surveillance does not make it possible to estimate the total number of people suffering from Lyme disease in Belgium.

The laboratories are a “sentinel” network: not all Belgian laboratories take part and a blood test is not always necessary or performed to make the diagnosis. 

The laboratory network allows to follow the trend of the disease over time and to describe the distribution according to age, sex and geographical zone. 

National Reference Centre for Borrelia burgdorferi

The main role of the National Reference Centre for Borrelia burgdorferi (only in French and Dutch) (consortium UCL-UZLeuven), established since 2011, is to provide assistance for diagnosis and to contribute to the epidemiological surveillance of the disease. 

Sentinel network for general practitioners

Sciensano also benefits from the cooperation of over 200 general practitioners spread over the entire country, who each year report the number of consultations for certain diseases, such as influenza.

This network has allowed to collect information about the number of consultations for a tick bite and an erythema migrans in 2003-2004 and in 2008-2009. 

In 2015 a new recording period has started.

Ticks Net: report your tick bites!

The aim of the Tick Net (only in French, Dutch and German) project is to collect data about:

  • the number of people bitten by ticks
  • the regions in Belgium where tick bites are the most frequent
  • the number of people who develop erythema migrans after a tick bite.

By gathering this data it will be possible to provide a more exact mapping of the periods and areas of activity of ticks in Belgium and this will help people who might be exposed to tick bites to take appropriate preventive measures.

 4 reasons for not being alarmed

  • Not every bite is infectious (in Belgium only about 10% of ticks are infected). 
  • An infected tick does not necessarily transmit the bacteria.
  • An infected person does not necessarily develop the disease.
  • Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics if it is diagnosed in time.

 

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