Two tick-borne diseases are on the rise in Vermont. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in every county and a new disease, Anaplasmosis, is starting to spread throughout the southern part of the state.
What is Lyme disease?
It is bacterial infection that is transmitted to people through the bite of a black-legged tick (deer tick) that is infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick must be attached to a person for at least 24 hours for infection to occur.
What are the early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?
In 70 percent of cases, people will develop an erythema migrans rash (often a bullseye-like rash) at the site of the tick bite. Other symptoms include headache, fever, and muscle pain.
What is Anaplasmosis?
Anaplasmosis is also a bacterial infection that is transmitted to people through the bite of a black-legged/deer tick. The tick must be infected with the bacteria, Anaplasma phagocytophilum to transmit the disease. The first two cases of Vermont-acquired Anaplasmosis were reported in 2010. According to the Vermont Department of Health, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases over the past five years.
Where do people live in Vermont who have acquired Anaplasmosis?
Cases of Anaplasmosis have been reported in nine out of 15 Vermont counties. Most cases have been reported in southwestern Vermont, in Bennington and Rutland Counties. Also, 65 percent of cases were acquired indigenously within Vermont, 33 percent of cases had an unknown exposure, and 2 percent of cases were acquired out of state.
What are the signs and symptoms of Anaplasmosis?
Symptoms of Anaplasmosis include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue.
Individuals may also experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash (rare). Signs of illness typically appear five to 21 days following a tick bite and last about one to two weeks.
If you have been recently bitten by a tick and are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to speak with your doctor. In some individuals, untreated Anaplasmosis can become a life-threatening illness.
How can tick-borne diseases be prevented?
- Avoid Ticks: When outdoors, walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded areas.
- Repel Ticks: Use 20-30 percent DEET on skin/clothing. Treat clothing/gear with permethrin.
- Remove Ticks: Bathe or shower within two hours after spending time outside in tick prone areas. Conduct a full-body tick check using a mirror. Inspect pets and gear for ticks.
Information in this article was taken from the following sources:
- Anaplasmosis graphs courtesy of the Vermont Department of Health
Molly Markowitz is a third-year medical student of the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.