Ehrlichiosis & Ticks in New England

A tick-borne bacterial infection, ehrlichiosis affects the white blood cells of various mammals, including humans. The principle vector of the disease is the Lone Star tick, which utilizes various mammalian hosts like the white-tailed deer and the white-footed mouse. While most cases of ehrlichiosis originate in the American Southwest and California, the disease also occurs with some frequency in the Southeast and New England states. The disease is most prevalent between April and September (when its tick host is most active), though avoidance is possible if proper precautionary measures are taken by people who live, work, or travel in areas with large tick populations.

Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis

While most patients remain asymptomatic and may not even remember the tick bite occurring, others develop a variety of symptoms indicative of a tick-borne illness. Indicators typically develop one to two weeks after being bitten by the infected tick.

Common symptoms of ehrlichiosis include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Rash

The rash appears more commonly on children than adults and is generally not itchy. Ehrlichiosis symptoms vary according to the individual person and often show up in different combinations. The malady can be fatal if misdiagnosed or left untreated, as it causes difficulty breathing and bleeding disorders.

Treatment of Ehrlichiosis

The best way to detect ehrlichiosis is through blood testing. Treatment usually comes in the form of antibiotics. Patients with compromised immunity due to cancer treatments, HIV infection, or organ transplants may react more severely to ehrlichiosis and could face long-term complications like renal or respiratory failure, myocarditis, or even death if proper treatment is not administered. To avoid contracting ehrlichiosis, take preventative measures in areas where ticks are prevalent, such as grassy fields, offbeat paths, and dense forests.

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