A Vermont resident has died from Lyme carditis, a rare complication of Lyme disease that affects heart tissue, making the incident the first reported death from the condition in the state, the Vermont Department of Health confirmed this week.
The news came following laboratory results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that indicated the recent death of a Franklin County resident was spurred by the complication, according to a press release issued by the department.
Lyme carditis, listed as the cause of nine deaths worldwide between 1985 and 2014, is extremely rare, according to CDC statistics cited in the release.
The condition makes up approximately one percent of all Lyme disease cases reported in the United States, the numbers show.
“It’s my sad duty to report this loss,” Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said in a statement. “While Lyme disease is increasingly common in Vermont, Lyme carditis itself is very rare.”
The condition is formed when bacteria that cause Lyme disease makes its way into heart tissue, where it can disrupt the electrical signals between the organ’s chambers and create “heart block,” which can quickly become worse, the release said.
Those with the complication could see common symptoms of Lyme disease, such as body aches, fever, and an erythema migrans rash on the upper back, according to the health department.
But, according to Levine, it is treatable with antibiotics. Sometimes a temporary pacemaker is also needed.
The health department issued an advisory Monday to Vermont’s health care providers asking them to talk to patients who may have Lyme disease about their cardiac symptoms and to also remember the potential role of Lyme carditis in sudden cardiac events, the release said.
“Prevention is key,” 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 healthcare provider.”