WASHINGTON (AP) -
Lyme disease makes the headlines but there are plenty of additional reasons
to avoid tick bites. New research highlights the latest in a growing list of
tick-borne threats - a distant relative of Lyme thatís easy to confuse with
suggests a kind of bacteria with an unwieldy name - Borrelia miyamotoi -
should be on the radar when people in Lyme-endemic areas get otherwise
unexplained summertime fevers. Itís one of several recently discovered
diseases linked to ticks in different parts of the country, a reminder to
get tick-savvy no matter where you live.
"People need to be
aware of what tick-borne diseases are in their area,Ē says Dr. Peter J.
Krause of Yale University, a specialist who reviewed the research. ďAnd they
should know how to avoid ticks.Ē
WHATíS THIS NEW
The first U.S. case
was reported in 2013 in New Jersey, an 80-year-old cancer survivor who over
four months became increasingly confused, had difficulty walking and lost 30
pounds. Doctors found spiral-shaped bacteria in her spinal fluid that looked
like Lyme but caused a relapsing fever more closely related to some other
tick-borne illnesses. While treatable by antibiotics - the woman recovered -
doctors know little about B. miyamotoi.
offers some clues. Researchers with Imugen Inc., a Massachusetts testing
lab, tested blood samples from patients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New
Jersey and New York whose doctors suspected tick-borne illnesses and used
that lab. During the 2013 and 2014 tick seasons the lab found 97 cases of
the new infection. Thatís roughly 1 percent of samples tested and close to
the labís detection of a better-known tick disease named anaplasmosis,
researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine. More research is needed
to determine just how prevalent the disease is.
analyzed medical records from 51 of those patients, and found symptoms
typically include a high fever, severe headache, chills and blood
abnormalities - decreases in infection-fighting and blood-clotting cells.
About a quarter of patients were hospitalized, although Imugen medical
director Dr. Philip Molloy cautioned thatís probably because doctors are
seeking testing only for their sickest, most puzzling patients.
The bacterium is
carried by deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, which also can
spread Lyme and two other illnesses, babesiosis and anaplasmosis.
NOT ONLY NEW WORRY
Two new tick-borne
viruses were recently discovered in the Midwest, and neither has a specific
The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed nine cases of Heartland virus,
and one death, with other reports under investigation, said CDC entomologist
Roger Nasci. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches,
diarrhea and low blood counts. Identified in Missouri, the virus also was
reported in Tennessee and Oklahoma, although the Lone Star tick that spreads
it lives around the East and Southeast.
Then thereís the
Bourbon virus, with similar symptoms, discovered last year after the death
of a Kansas man and named for his home county. Another patient, in Oklahoma,
recovered. The Kansas man had found an embedded tick days before getting
sick, and CDC researchers are searching for the culprit species.
HOW MANY DISEASES
CAN TICKS SPREAD?
The CDC counts 14
illnesses linked to specific U.S. tick species, not including the Bourbon
virus still being studied.
Lyme is the most
common, with about 30,000 cases reported each year, although CDC has
estimated that the true number could be 10 times higher. Itís too early to
know how widespread the newly discovered illnesses are. But people can be
infected with more than one tick-borne illness simultaneously, complicating
NO REASON TO STAY
stress that itís important to enjoy the outdoors and get physical activity.
Infections are more common in some parts of the country than others, and
there are effective protections.
ďA lot of people
get very concerned about any tick bite,Ē said Nasci, who heads CDCís
arboviral diseases branch. ďNot every tick is infected.Ē
If you are bitten,
remove the tick as soon as possible.
PREVENTION IS BEST
No matter where you
live, CDCís advice is similar.
-Shower soon after
being outdoors to spot ticks more easily, and check pets that can carry
-If youíve been in
tick-infested areas, carefully do a full-body check, including under arms,
behind knees, ears and hair.
-When in the woods,
walk in the center of trails, avoiding brush and leaf litter.
-Use bug repellent
with DEET on exposed skin, or wear long pants and long sleeves.
around homes by keeping grass cut; removing leaf litter and brush; and
placing a barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas.