People are generally aware that ticks transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi). But Borrelia is not the only pathogen carried by ticks. Recent research in the Hudson Valley of New York found that approximately 60% of the ticks studied were carriers of other disease-causing pathogens. Being infected with one disease is bad enough! Being infected with two, three, or four severely complicates your body’s biology, your diagnosis, and your treatment strategy, as well as your ability to heal.
The most common pathogens transmitted by ticks include:
Babesia is a protozoal infection like malaria and often starts with a high fever and chills. As it progresses, patients may develop anemia, fatigue, headache, drenching sweats, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Often difficult to distinguish from Lyme disease, but can be life-threatening to people with no spleen, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. Complications include very low blood pressure, liver problems, anemia (a breakdown of red blood cells), and kidney failure. Treatment of Babesia infection requires anti-malarial drugs in addition to antibiotics.
Frequently referred to as “cat-scratch fever,” early signs of this bacterial infection are fever, fatigue, headache, poor appetite, and an unusual, “stretch mark-like” rash. Swollen glands and a sore throat are typical, especially around the head, neck and arms. Bartonellosis should be suspected when neurologic symptoms are out of proportion to the other systemic symptoms of Lyme disease. Other symptoms include: gastritis, lower abdominal pain, soreness and pain on the foot bottom, and tender subcutaneous nodules along the shin bones.
Ehrlichia & Anaplasma
Ehrlichia and Anaplasma are two similar tick-borne bacterial pathogens that infect white blood cells. Symptoms can include sudden high fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and nausea. The disease can be mild or life-threatening. Severely ill patients can have low white blood cell count, low platelet count, anemia, elevated liver enzymes, kidney failure and respiratory insufficiency. Older people or people with immune suppression are more likely to require hospitalization.
Other tick-borne pathogens include:
- Powhassan virus (can transmit within 15 minutes of tick bite)
- Borrelia miyamotoi
- Borrelia mayonii (newly discovered)
- Other strains of Borrelia. There are 100 knows strains in the US; 300 worldwide. (NOTE: The Western blot tests only for one strain.)
- STARI – transmitted by Lone Star tick, now being reported on east coast, including northeast. Can create allergy to red meat.
- Bourbon virus
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever