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Ehrlichiosis is the name given to a disease caused by several bacteria that can infect animals and people. It has been known to infect animals for many years but infections of people have only been recognized in the last 15-20 years. Two types of these bacteria are known to infect people in Indiana.
Ehrlichiosis is spread by the bite of either the Lonestar tick or the deer tick. Ticks acquire their infection from small wild living rodents or deer. The tick injects the bacteria into either the animal or human host as it is engorging on blood. Pictures of the ticks that spread this disease in Indiana can be viewed at: www.ent.iastate.edu/imagegal/tick/aamer/ or www.ent.iastate.edu/imagegal/tick/iscap/.
Some individuals may not become ill or only have very mild symptoms; other may have very severe illness. Usually symptoms appear 5-10 days after the tick has taken a blood meal and fallen from the host. Symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, cough, joint pains, confusion, and sometimes a rash may also be present.
You cannot tell without seeing your doctor. Your physician will complete a thorough physical examination and laboratory testing to confirm whether or not you have ehrlichiosis.
Ehrlichiosis can be treated with appropriate antibiotics, usually a tetracycline antibiotic or doxycycline, but other may be used depending on the patient’s age or other health status.
Preventing tick bites is the only way to prevent this disease. Preventing tick bites can be accomplished by staying out of areas where ticks are likely to occur and by keeping high grass, weeds and brush from yards to remove places that serve as harborages for ticks.
If you do enter an area where ticks are likely to be present.