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Tick-borne Disease Alert: New Disease Similar to Lyme

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Ticks can spread a new disease similar to Lyme.

There are a number of valid reasons to avoid acquiring ticks. They're creepy and they drink your blood, for starters. Not only can they spread Lyme disease, but also 14 others. The newest tick-borne disease in North America is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia miyamotoi, according to a report published online this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

In 1995, researchers in Japan discovered the microbe. In 2011, the disease was first documented in human patients in Russia. In 2013, the first cases were reported in the northeastern United States.

Spirally shaped bacteria called Borrelia miyamotoi are closely related to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Borrelia miyamotoi infection is associated with recurrent fever, headache, muscle aches, and chills. Unlike Lyme disease, it rarely results in the characteristic "bull's-eye" rash.

Nearly a quarter of those who have been diagnosed with Borrelia miyamotoi disease are so ill that they require hospitalization, the Annals report states. Doxycycline, a commonly prescribed antibiotic, has proven to be the most effective treatment thus far. In addition to its efficacy against anaplasmosis and other tick-borne diseases, doxycycline is also effective against the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Is it growing?

The prevalence of Borrelia miyamotoi disease is debated amongst specialists. Clinical laboratory Imugen in Norwood, Massachusetts, led by Dr. Philip Molloy, found evidence of the bacterium in 0.8% of the blood samples tested for possible tick-borne infection, and published their findings in the Annals. The prevalence of other diseases transmitted by ticks was at least twice as high.

Not many medical professionals are even aware of this illness. They may order a Lyme disease test on a patient who presents with symptoms, but the results will always be negative. Some people who contract Borrelia miyamotoi disease may dismiss their symptoms as the flu and avoid medical attention.

Taking precautions is the best course of action.

Borrelia miyamotoi is transmitted by deer ticks. Lyme disease is transmitted by these small, tough ticks as well (which is caused by a related bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi). Keep ticks off your body and check yourself for ticks after walking through grassy areas where ticks are likely to live to reduce your risk of contracting these and other tick-borne diseases.

Ticks and the diseases they carry can be quite different from one region to the next. Learn about the ones that are more prevalent in your area.

Avoid the negative effects of inflammation by taking preventative measures.

Several diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, have been linked to chronic, low-grade inflammation. Learn easy ways to combat inflammation and maintain your health from the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

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Here are eight ways to avoid getting ticks:

  1. Wear light colors. Wearing light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks, even the tiny deer ticks.
  2. Roll up your pants and tuck them into your shoes. This is not a good style choice. However, ticks can be physically prevented from reaching your skin if your pants are tucked into your socks.
  3. Put on bug spray. At typical concentrations, DEET (the active ingredient in many insect repellents) has some
  4. effectiveness against ticks. Between 30% and 40% DEET might be necessary to effectively repel them. The stronger chemical permethrin both kills ticks and keeps them away. Permethrin-based products should be sprayed on fabric rather than applied directly to the skin.
  1. Don't stray too far from the path's center. Ticks lack the abilities necessary for flight and jumping. Therefore, you can only contract them if you interact with the same kind of environment in which they thrive. They thrive in damp, partly shaded forests with lots of leaves, low plants, and shrubs.
  2. Check the insides of your legs and your child's groin area. Ticks probably latch on to the lower legs and move upwards to the body in search of a meal. Tick checks can be done in the comfort of one's own shower. Inspect your freshly washed skin for any unusual lumps.
  3. Start the dryer and dry your clothes. A hot water wash won't kill deer ticks, but an hour in the dryer will.
  4. Ticks can't survive in the dry, open spaces they hate. Keep patio furnishings and playground sets away from the fringe of any trees or other dense foliage. Find a nice patch of grass or open area to have your picnic.
  5. Both dogs and humans are fair game for deer ticks. Daily tick checks and grooming are musts for canine health. Ticks can be killed or repelled with the help of a number of different sprays, collars, and topical products. Vaccines are also an option for canine companions.

Anti-Tick First Aid

Typically, Borrelia miyamotoi or another tick-borne microbe needs the tick to be attached to your skin for around 24 hours before it can enter your bloodstream.

Ticks should be carefully and gently removed from the skin if they are found attached. Pull the tick out as close to the skin as you can with tweezers. A needle can be used to gently pry it off, as well.

The tick may have been attached for some time if it is swollen. Please see a physician. If tick-borne diseases are common in your area, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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