Beyond Lyme Disease — Tick-Borne Diseases in the Northeast
Lyme disease is a growing concern across the Northeastern United States. Although it is now found in most states east of the Rocky Mountains, the vast majority of cases are contracted in a handful of states in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. It’s been estimated that approximately 300,000 cases of Lyme disease occur annually in the United States.
But Lyme disease is not the only disease carried by ticks. Depending on the species, a variety of other illnesses are also tick-borne threats to health.
The black-legged (“deer”) tick is responsible for transmitting this disease. The bacterium responsible, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, can cause symptoms ranging from fever, headache, and chills, to muscle aches and nausea, among other unpleasant symptoms. Symptoms typically appear within one to two weeks of receiving a deer tick bite. Anaplasmosis infection can be treated with antibiotics.
Caused by microscopic parasites (Babesia microti) and transmitted primarily by the black-legged (“deer”) tick, the effects of this red blood cell infection can range from virtually no symptoms to life-threatening symptoms. Babesiosis is primarily spread by deer tick nymphs, which are active in the warm summer months in the Northeast.
Symptoms range from flu-like (fever, chills, headache, nausea) to potentially life-threatening, should a condition called hemolytic anemia develop. People without a spleen are especially susceptible to the latter. Babesiosis can be treated with a combination of two or more medications.
Borrelia mayonii is a newly discovered bacterium capable of causing a version of Lyme disease. Classic Lyme disease is caused by a related bacterial species, Borrelia burgdorferi. Mayonii is presently believed to be limited to the Upper Midwest. It is transmitted by the black-legged tick. Yet another species, Borrelia miyamotoi, is also capable of causing an illness similar to Lyme.
Although still rare at present (just 100 cases have been documented in 10 years), infection with Powassan virus is problematic, because there is no cure for this viral infection. Transmitted by the black-legged (“deer”) tick, Powassan may be characterized by fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may also occur. Not all victims will experience symptoms, however. Symptoms may warrant hospitalization for support. In rare instances, Powassan may be fatal.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Despite the name, this bacterial illness (caused by Rickettsia parkeri and others) can be contracted throughout the Northeast. It is most commonly transmitted by the larger American dog tick.
Transmitted by the dog tick, wood tick, lone star tick, and deer flies, this bacterial disease is highly infectious and can be contracted not only through insect bites, but by handling the flesh of infected animals such as rabbits or other rodents. Tularemia usually causes fever, but symptoms vary widely depending on the route of infection. Skin ulcers and lymph node swelling are not uncommon.
All the Rest
Unfortunately, the list of potential illnesses spread by ticks does not end with Tularemia. Others, including Colorado tick fever, Ehrlichiosis, Bourbon virus, Heartland virus, and Southern-tick associated rash illness (STARI), are also threats.
Be on the Safe Side
Despite our best efforts, tick checks and tick-borne illness awareness, you may find yourself in need of medical advice. PhysicianOne Urgent Care providers are available 24/7. Start with a virtual visit from the comfort of home, and if an in-person evaluation is needed our centers are open every day – including holidays – for in-person care.