Dear Doctors: We’ve been hiking a lot near our home. Two of our friends have gotten tick bites. One became quite ill and was told it’s anaplasmosis. Can you please explain what that is?
Answer: Depending on the climate, ticks can be a year-round problem.
These tiny arachnids carry a range of diseases that can be transferred when they bite people.
The best-known is Lyme disease. Other tick-borne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, tick-borne relapsing fever, ehrlichiosis, Powassan encephalitis and tularemia.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a marked increase this summer in cases of anaplasmosis. It’s most frequently reported in the upper Midwest and the Northeast.
Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacterium called Anaplasma phagocytophilum carried primarily by the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, and by the Western blacklegged tick. When an infected tick feeds on your, on its blood, it can pass along pathogens it carries.
Symptoms begin to show five days to two weeks after a bite. They include the rapid onset of high fever, chills, severe headache, aches and pains, malaise and exhaustion. Some people also develop nausea, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
Tick bites often are painless, which makes it easy for them to go unnoticed. That’s why it’s so important to wear tick repellent and to do a thorough tick check of your entire body, clothing and gear after walking or spending time in grassy or wooded areas. Be sure to also check any pets.
Anaplasmosis is diagnosed through blood tests.
The symptoms are general enough that they can be attributed to a number of factors. That makes accurate information about recent activities a critical element of diagnosis. It’s important to let your healthcare provider know about any time spent in tick territory.
The recommended treatment for anaplasmosis is the antibiotic doxycycline.
Treatment must begin as soon after infection as possible. Delays can lead to more severe illness.
Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. Elizabeth Ko are internists who teach at UCLA Health.