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Be Careful Out There! Tick Borne Diseases Continue To Rise in ME

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Tick-borne illnesses Lyme and anaplasmosis increased in Maine in 2019

 
 

By Joe Lawlor Staff WriterJanuary 3, 2020

Anaplasmosis diagnoses in Maine reached a record high in 2019 with at least 685 confirmed cases of the tick-borne illness, while the number of Lyme disease cases also were up, rebounding following a decline in 2018.

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“Ticks were abundant and highly active in 2019,” said Griffin Dill, integrated pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The university operates a “tick lab” and studies tick-borne illnesses.

Researchers studying the rise in tick-borne illnesses – anaplasmosis cases in Maine have climbed more than tenfold since 2012 – are looking at factors that include increased testing and climate change.

While both Lyme and anaplasmosis are transmitted by the deer tick and have the same symptoms – fever, joint pain, swelling, fatigue, headaches and neurological problems like Bell’s palsy – anaplasmosis is typically more severe. About 25 percent of anaplasmosis patients are hospitalized, compared to about 5 percent of Lyme patients. The diseases require similar treatment – a course of antibiotics for a bacterial infection.

There were 1,461 cases of Lyme disease in 2019, according to preliminary data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a 7 percent increase over the 1,370 cases in 2018, but well below the record 1,852 reported in 2017.

Anaplasmosis showed the biggest increase in 2019, rising 44 percent from the 476 cases in 2018. The number of anaplasmosis cases peaked at 663 in 2017 and has risen dramatically since 2012, when there were 52 confirmed diagnoses.

The CDC also reported 138 cases of babesiosis in 2019, another tick-borne illness.

The final numbers for 2019 will be slightly higher for tick-borne diseases, as there’s a lag in reporting some cases. For instance, if a patient tested positive for Lyme in November, but the patient’s doctor did not report the case to the Maine CDC until January 2020, that case would be added to the 2019 report.

Dill said researchers still are gathering information about 2019, and there are many unknowns about why anaplasmosis cases surged. Of the ticks that were submitted to the Maine tick lab in 2019, 8 percent tested positive for anaplasmosis, compared to 38 percent of ticks that tested positive for Lyme, Dill said.

“It might be that there’s hot spots in certain geographical areas for ticks infected with anaplasmosis, and that those ticks may be more likely to be in areas with more human activity,” he said.

Also, Dill said doctors may be more likely to order tests for anaplasmosis now compared to five years ago, so cases that were not diagnosed years ago are more likely to be reported now. Maine is following a pattern seen in other states where Lyme disease becomes rampant, followed a few years later by increased prevalence of anaplasmosis and babesiosis.

Meanwhile, researchers are studying how climate change is affecting tick range and habitat, and how seasonal weather patterns may play a role. For instance, the hot and dry summer of 2018 may have contributed to reduced Lyme disease cases, while Maine experienced a wetter and more humid summer in 2019, Dill said. Ticks thrive in damp and humid conditions.

Dill said an early November snow in 2018 may have reduced tick activity, while there wasn’t as much snow through late fall of 2019.

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“The ticks are unlikely to crawl through several inches of snow,” Dill said. “They are more likely to hide under the leaf litter under the snow, and wait until the snow melts before questing for a host.”

Dill said a new law passed by Congress, the TICK Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will be a great help in the future for researchers to do more comprehensive field surveillance of ticks in Maine, and to improve diagnostics so that more people are tested for the disease. Dill expects some of the TICK Act funding to be distributed in Maine.

The TICK Act includes $100 million in federal spending, doled out in $20 million increments over the next five years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would award grants to state health departments to “improve data collection and analysis, support early detection and diagnosis, improve treatment and raise awareness,” Collins’ office said in a December news release.

The prevalence of tick-borne diseases is much higher than the reported number, by about 10 times, according to the U.S. CDC, because of misdiagnoses or cases that are not diagnosed. Nationally, there were 42,743 reported cases of Lyme in 2017, the most recent year available, and 5,762 anaplasmosis cases.

Paula Jackson Jones,  president and co-founder of Maine’s Midcoast Lyme Disease Support and Education, who lobbied for the TICK Act, said it should provide better collaboration between the states.

“Hopefully, this will result in some really good answers, finding some really good solutions to this,” Jackson Jones said.

Edited by BillB

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Anaplasmosis is no joke. I was hospitalized for it for 5 days a few years ago and put on IV antibiotics. You will know it when you get it, like the worst case of flu imaginable and then some. Only good thing is there are no significant lasting after-effects, unlike Lyme, provided it's treated in a reasonable time frame. 

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Last year my dog got anaplasmosis. A couple weeks after bird season, he's down. No warning, or prior symptoms. Poor guy couldn't even walk up a few stairs.

We rushed him to the vet. I figured it was tick related since the timing fit. Ran tests, and came up positive for anaplasmosis. She put him on a regiment of doxycycline, and a few rimadyl. Within 48 hours he was 90% better. Within a week, he was fine. But I test him annually for tick diseases, and this fall he still tested positive for anaplasmosis.

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2 hours ago, bob_G said:

Last year my dog got anaplasmosis. A couple weeks after bird season, he's down. No warning, or prior symptoms. Poor guy couldn't even walk up a few stairs.

We rushed him to the vet. I figured it was tick related since the timing fit. Ran tests, and came up positive for anaplasmosis. She put him on a regiment of doxycycline, and a few rimadyl. Within 48 hours he was 90% better. Within a week, he was fine. But I test him annually for tick diseases, and this fall he still tested positive for anaplasmosis.

Depends on what type of test they're using Bob.  I retired from a career in making diagnostic tests so this is a rare example of truth on the internet... 

 

IF the test they used tested for the presence of  dog-generated antibody type IgG which reacts to an anaplasmosis infection and continues to remain in the bloodstream for up to years, it may continue to remain as a positive test for a long time.  If they used an IgM test, then it should be negative unless there's an active infection going on, as IgM is the antibody organisms make to first fight off an infection.  The vaccines that we and animals get for things like measles, pertussis, Hepatitis A or B, etc., are engineered so you make IgG antibodies against the organism and will retain immunity for a long time.  

 

The only tests test that will tell you 100% that there are infectious agents within an organism are antigen or nucleic acid tests, which directly test for the presence of Anaplasmosis, not if an organism has made antibodies against it.

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Just last week  we ran his blood work, heartworm, Lyme and anaplasmosis. Even though he's completely asymptomatic, he tested positive for anaplasmosis.

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17 hours ago, bob_G said:

Just last week  we ran his blood work, heartworm, Lyme and anaplasmosis. Even though he's completely asymptomatic, he tested positive for anaplasmosis.

As stated above, it depends on what type of test used, Antibody, Antigen or Nucleic Acid.  I just looked up the Anaplasmosis test from the dominant Vet Reference Lab and their test is a Total Antibody test, so yes, even though your pup is cured, he still has circulating IgG antibodies in his bloodstream so the test would come up positive.  If you ever had Measles, or the Measles Vaccine, you would be positive on a Measles Total Antibody Test, even though you're long past your disease or vaccine.

 

Ask your vet what test was used by specifically asking " Was it a result from a Total Antibody Test, Antigen Test or Nucleic Acid Test?"  You'll probably give him/her a heart flutter being so IVD (In Vitro Diagnostics) Savvy...

Edited by Roccus7

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On a side note if a presidential candidate promised to rid the US of Mosquitoes, black flies and ticks....he or she would win in a landslide. 

 

Tick born illnesses are nothing to ignore, I was diagnosed with Babesiosis. Once recovered I realized that I had a full understanding of why some people take their life when they are this sick. That's how bad it is. 

 

read below>

 

Babesiosis, unlike Lyme disease, has no rash or bullseye pattern. Babesiosis is on the rise big time, especially in Massachusetts ( cape cod area) and RI. It has malaria-like symptoms, starts off slow with that run-down feeling. Then unrelenting fever, constant achey sore joints, and muscles, a headache like nobody's business, sweats, occasional shivering and being lethargic. It's very hard to diagnose because of the rarity of it until now. This parasite enters your bloodstream from a deer tick, the deer tick only has to bite, unlike lyme it doesn't have to be latched on to your body for a day or so, and again no rash, bullseye. Just a bite.

 

This past 7 days as been absolute hell for me, the worst days of my life. At several points I thought I was checking out for good, lifes tackle box was shut and the rod was about to be hung. I was finally diagnosed last night after a lot blood work. Infectious disease folks also questioned if I had been out of the country, if I had contact with any foreigners, ate anything unusual etc. I had visited the CC southside area for fishing late june for 2 days. I did not tromp around in grassy vegetation or slept in a dune area, I was not in the woods. I was at the time aware of tick habitats. In fact, having lived there 50 years I don't think I ever have seen a deer in my area, this is not a debate if there is deer there or not, but rather a public service to those locals or those visiting our remote areas in our passion for fishing, Watch yourselves, your kids, relatives with the possible exception of inlaws.. A quick and thorough inspection is needed. I will likely miss up to 2-3 weeks of work, including last week, one of the meds before my insurance is over $1200 over the counter. can't wait to see the lab and hospital bills. think about this if you are self-employed or without insurance. I'm lucky, I'm not.

This is nasty and can bring a strong, healthy in shape person to their knees.

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Been at home with my 3 year old and wife for 15 days here in Kittery.  We all have symptoms of Coronavirus.  Walked through the woods down to the tidal creek in our backyard the other day.  Got back home found a deer tick that had already bit me.  Can’t get tested for Coronavirus because I’m not “at risk” and sure as hell not going to the hospital right now for any diagnosis of the tick issue. 
Not happy but trying to stay positive.


I never liked Corona but it is definitely better with some Lyme.

 

Jokes aside best wishes to all of you affected by tick borne illnesses it’s some serious stuff.

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3 hours ago, James Browne said:

Been at home with my 3 year old and wife for 15 days here in Kittery.  We all have symptoms of Coronavirus.  Walked through the woods down to the tidal creek in our backyard the other day.  Got back home found a deer tick that had already bit me.  Can’t get tested for Coronavirus because I’m not “at risk” and sure as hell not going to the hospital right now for any diagnosis of the tick issue. 
Not happy but trying to stay positive.


I never liked Corona but it is definitely better with some Lyme.

 

Jokes aside best wishes to all of you affected by tick borne illnesses it’s some serious stuff.

You need to get the diagnosed ASAP as Lyme can go chronic and you really don't want that to happen.  If by chance, you get the bulls eye rash, photo that and send it to your Doc, he'd likely put you on the meds right away!!

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On 3/29/2020 at 10:32 AM, James Browne said:

Been at home with my 3 year old and wife for 15 days here in Kittery.  We all have symptoms of Coronavirus.  Walked through the woods down to the tidal creek in our backyard the other day.  Got back home found a deer tick that had already bit me.  Can’t get tested for Coronavirus because I’m not “at risk” and sure as hell not going to the hospital right now for any diagnosis of the tick issue. 
Not happy but trying to stay positive.


I never liked Corona but it is definitely better with some Lyme.

 

Jokes aside best wishes to all of you affected by tick borne illnesses it’s some serious stuff.

I agree, keep and eye on the area, just because you were bitten by a tick doesn't mean Lyme or anything else. Sounds like you found it in time and removed it. Good luck

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On 3/29/2020 at 2:32 PM, Roccus7 said:

You need to get the diagnosed ASAP as Lyme can go chronic and you really don't want that to happen.  If by chance, you get the bulls eye rash, photo that and send it to your Doc, he'd likely put you on the meds right away!!

Thanks boss, really hoping i don’t get Lyme or any other tick borne garbage.  No bullseye, I don’t want to take antibiotics as a precaution and potentially diminish my immune response to the Corona.  The Corona (assumed as I can’t get tested) is just lingering.

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23 hours ago, iphish said:

I agree, keep and eye on the area, just because you were bitten by a tick doesn't mean Lyme or anything else. Sounds like you found it in time and removed it. Good luck

Thanks man.  It couldn’t have been stuck on me for more than 5 minutes.  I got bit by one about 5 years ago similar scenario received No medical treatment and luckily didn’t come down with anything, fingers crossed again.

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