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Indiana State Department of Health

Epidemiology Resource Center Home > Surveillance and Investigation > Diseases and Conditions Resource Page > Ehrlichiosis Ehrlichiosis

About ….Ehrlichiosis

What is Ehrlichiosis?

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.

How is Ehrlichiosis Spread?

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.

What are the symptoms of Ehrlichiosis?

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.

How do I know if I have Ehrlichiosis?

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.

How is Ehrlichiosis treated?

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.

How can Ehrlichiosis be prevented?

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.

  1. Wear long pants and long sleeved light-colored clothing to easily see ticks on clothing and prevent access to skin.
  2. Tuck pant legs into sock to prevent ticks from reaching skin of legs or crawling up inside of pant legs.
  3. Using repellents containing DEET may be applied to the skin or clothing will discourage ticks from attaching to the body for several hours before needing to be replaced. Products containing permethrin can be sprayed on your shoes and clothing and will be effective for several days. Carefully follow label directions when using any repellent.
  4. After leaving a tick infested area do a full body tick check and remove any ticks found with either tweezers, paper tissue, or while wearing gloves. Ticks should be removed by grasping them close to the skin and pulling upward with a steady, even pressure. For additional instructions on tick removals go to: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/ehrlichia/Prevention/Prevention.htm.