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Anaplasmosis: Tests, Diagnosis & Treatments

Tick-borne diseases are ramping up in the United States. More and more people are falling ill with these infections for various reasons. One reason is due to the prevalence of higher tick populations as a result of climate change, making the conditions for their survival that much easier. 

While Lyme disease is often the most-talked about tick-borne disease, others can be just as harmful to your health. One of those is anaplasmosis. But what is anaplasmosis, and what is the best treatment? 

What Is Anaplasmosis? 

Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne illness, as previously mentioned, that is transferred to humans through the bites of infected ticks. The ticks most likely to spread anaplasmosis are the black-legged tick and the western black-legged tick. Black-legged ticks are common in areas where ticks are primarily found, such as the Northeastern area of the country and the upper Midwestern states. They thrive in humid and warm conditions that have low-lying vegetation. 

The illness anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria known as Anaplasma phagocytophilum. These bacteria are gram-negative and can cause disease in animals such as sheep and cattle as well as humans. When it occurs in animals, it is called tick-borne fever or pasture fever. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Anaplasmosis? 

After the initial tick bite, signs and symptoms of anaplasmosis will take anywhere from one to two weeks to appear. Since the tick bite is often painless and people are unaware they’ve been bitten, it can be challenging to determine if the symptoms are caused by a tick-borne illness or something else. 

Other than being unaware of a bite, the reason is that the early illness signs are similar to a moderate or mild cold or flu infection. The first one to five days of the disease will present with symptoms, such as: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise 

If a person isn’t aware they have anaplasmosis and their doctor mistakes their symptoms for another type of infection, it will progress to a stage known as late illness. 

The symptoms of late illness can also present as a complication in people with preexisting health conditions. The signs of severe illness caused by an anaplasmosis infection include:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Bleeding problems
  • Organ failure
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death 

Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for a severe anaplasmosis infection. People that fall into this category include: 

  • Cancer patients
  • People with HIV infections
  • People taking immunosuppressant medications
Image by Winel Sutanto on Unsplash: Is anaplasmosis curable? 

What Are The Tests For Anaplasmosis?

Diagnosing anaplasmosis can be challenging because the early infection has symptoms resembling other conditions. To diagnose anaplasmosis, doctors must perform a combinational approach that includes a history of tick exposure, a collection of current symptoms and lab testing. 

Five possible tests can be used to help doctors reach a definitive diagnosis of anaplasmosis. The tests are: 

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • Serology (indirect immunofluorescence antibody IFA assay)
  • Microscopic examination of a peripheral blood smear
  • Culture or bacterial isolation 
  • Immunohistochemical (IHC) assay 

Doctors tend to lean more toward PCR and microscopy tests in people with acute disease. Serology is often used in those with infections that have lasted a long time or are more severe. Treatment starts during the testing phase because diagnosing the disease can be challenging. The longer a person has it, the more at risk they are for a more severe infection. 

What Is The Differential Diagnosis Of Anaplasmosis? 

There are several differential diagnoses for anaplasmosis because of the symptoms and how it is caused. Some possible differential diagnoses include: 

  • Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME) 
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever 
  • Relapsing fever
  • Tularemia 
  • Lyme disease
  • Colorado tick fever
  • Babesiosis  

These conditions can cause issues with the diagnosis of anaplasmosis or be confused with anaplasmosis because of similar symptoms. 

Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash: What is the best treatment for anaplasmosis?

Is Anaplasmosis The Same As Lyme Disease? 

While anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are caused by a bacterial infection contracted from a tick bite, they are not the same. Different bacteria are to blame for the conditions. Even though some of the symptoms are similar, they do not come with the same long-term complications or effects. 

What Is The First Line Of Treatment For Anaplasmosis? 

Antibiotics are the first choice treatment for anaplasmosis because it is a bacterial infection. One specific antibiotic, doxycycline, is used to treat the condition in adults and children of all ages. This antibiotic is the most effective at preventing severe health complications and has been proven safe in most people. People typically feel better within 24 to 48 hours when taking doxycycline for anaplasmosis.

How Long Is Recovery From Anaplasmosis? 

The time it takes to recover from anaplasmosis varies depending on certain factors, such as how quickly a person sought treatment and how severe their illness is. People can start to feel better within two days. 

People who do not get antibiotics for their infection or take ineffective medication could deal with the illness for as long as 60 days. That is why early treatment is so necessary when a person has anaplasmosis. 

Since anaplasmosis is another tick-borne illness, the best thing you can do to avoid it is avoid getting bitten by ticks. You can do this by wearing bug spray and light-colored and loose-fitting clothing while out in wooded areas, and by checking thoroughly for ticks when you arrive home. 

Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash: How do you get anaplasmosis?

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16 Worst States For Lyme Disease In The US

Lyme disease has become a severe problem in the United States because of the rampant tick population. The bacterial infection infects half a million people each year in the country. With that many people contracting Lyme disease, it’s hard to feel safe while out in wooded areas where the ticks are the most likely to be. 

That being said, ticks are not prevalent in every state. Some areas in the US carry a much higher risk than others when coming into contact with infected ticks and contracting the difficult-to-treat Lyme disease infection. But what states are the worst for Lyme disease, and what can you do if you live in these areas?  

What States Are Vulnerable For Lyme Disease? 

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the country. More and more people each year are getting diagnosed with the bacterial infection. That is especially true in states more vulnerable to larger infected tick populations. 

While more than half the country is home to these ticks, certain areas have seen an uptick in Lyme disease cases. That is likely because of the climate and environmental factors that come into play regarding a tick’s life cycle and where they best survive. 

Ticks can thrive in conditions above 4 degrees Celsius. Typically, every state in the country can hover at that temperature at any point in the year. However, there is more to it than temperature. Ticks need high humidity levels since they cannot drink water. They rely on humid conditions for their bodies to stay effectively hydrated – a humidity of 85% or higher is ideal. If the humidity dips below 80%, the tick’s life will be cut short due to dehydration. 

Ticks also need many hosts to feed off of to stay alive. While there is wildlife across the country, some states provide the best possible hosts for them to latch on to. Low-lying vegetation is also an essential aspect of survival for ticks because it allows for a shield from the sun and shelter. Hosts such as deer, mice and sheep also frequent these areas, making it much easier for a tick to survive. 

The states that are most vulnerable to ticks are those that meet the above criteria. Northeastern states such as New Jersey and New York make for prime conditions. 

Image by Ryan Stone on Unsplash: Where is Lyme disease the worst in the US? 

What Seasons Are The Worst For Lyme Disease? 

Lyme disease tends to spike in the warmer months. From late March to late October can be prime time for ticks because the weather tends to be more humid and warmer, and most hosts are out and about in the vegetative areas. The time between these months is typically called tick season since that is when most ticks are feeding. 

Depending on the weather and recent changes caused by climate change, tick season can last longer if the cold of winter is warded off for longer or ends sooner than expected. 

What State Has The Highest Incidence Of Lyme Disease? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state with the most Lyme disease cases in 2019 was Pennsylvania, with 6,763 confirmed cases. Another 2,235 probable cases were added to the data as well. The incidence rate per 100,000 people in the state was roughly 52.8. The states that followed Pennsylvania with the highest Lyme disease rates were New York with 2,847, New Jersey with 2,400 and Maine with 1,629. 

While these four states had the most cases in the country, there are high incidence rates in 10 others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lyme Disease Maps. Most of the states with the highest Lyme disease rates fell into the Northeast Region, with 12 states. 

The other 2 with the highest incidence rates, Wisconsin and Minnesota, belong to the upper Midwest region of the country. The Northeast and upper Midwest areas have a climate that gives ticks enough humidity, hosts and vegetation to thrive. 

What Are The 16 Worst States For Lyme Disease In The United States? 

While the following 16 states account for those with the highest incidence rates in the country, the number of confirmed and probable cases varies significantly by state. The highest is in Pennsylvania, while the lowest belongs to Massachusetts. 

  1. Connecticut 
  2. Delaware 
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Maine
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Maryland
  7. Minnesota
  8. New Hampshire
  9. New Jersey 
  10. New York 
  11. Pennsylvania
  12. Rhode Island
  13. Vermont
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Wisconsin
Image by Erik Karits on Unsplash: Where in the US is Lyme disease most common?  

How Can I Protect Myself If I Live In These States? 

Living in a tick-filled state doesn’t mean you have to avoid the outdoors like the plague. It simply means that, when enjoying the great outdoors, you must be more thoughtful about how you do it and ensure you’re aware of the Lyme disease risk. 

Ticks latch onto bare skin and continue to feed for as long as possible. To avoid this when hiking or spending time outside, wearing loose-fitting and light-colored clothing can help you protect yourself from getting bit. 

You can also use bug spray that contains DEET which may help ward off ticks and make you less attractive as a host. Following an outdoor excursion, you will also want to thoroughly check yourself, your family and any pets you have for ticks. It typically takes a tick 24 to 48 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. That means that the faster you detect and remove the tick, the better your chances of avoiding the infection. 

To remove the tick, you can use tweezers and gently squeeze the tick. Once you have a good grip, you will slowly and gently pull the tick out, being careful to ensure the entire tick stays intact while you take it out. Once removed, put the tick in a bag and have it sent for testing. That will help you identify whether or not the tick that bit you has the infection, and also allow officials to track diseased ticks in the area. 

Lyme disease is challenging to cope with, so it’s best to protect yourself before contracting it. 

Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash

News

Tick-Borne Diseases & Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

Exposure to chemicals affects people in different ways. Some substances cause no adverse effects, while others can be utterly toxic to humans – even in small amounts. 

Typically, these more dangerous chemicals are blatantly marked. People are made aware to avoid them altogether or to wear protective gear if avoidance isn’t possible. However, when a person is more sensitive to chemical exposure, it can be challenging to come into contact with even mild and non-toxic chemicals. 

Intolerance to certain chemicals is usually marked by accompanying symptoms such as a skin rash or other allergy-type signs. However, some cases of low-level chemical exposure can cause a person to experience multiple symptoms. When that happens, it is referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity disease (MCS). But what exactly is MCS, and what connection does it have with tick-borne diseases?  

What Is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disease (MCS)?

Multiple chemical sensitivity disease is a syndrome that causes an array of symptoms when a person is exposed to chemicals at a low level. The syndrome is often called environmental illness, sick building syndrome or idiopathic environmental intolerance. The chemical exposure can be so low that most people feel no ill effects. Still, someone with MCS experiences a range of adverse effects.  

The myriad of symptoms that develop in a person with the syndrome is wide-ranging and non-specific. That means the symptoms cannot be seen but only reported by the person experiencing them. For example, fatigue or chronic pain that isn’t caused by an apparent injury is deemed non-specific. 

Image by CDC on Unsplash: Can Lyme cause MCS? 

What Are The Symptoms Of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity? 

The symptoms associated with MCS can range significantly, and people may not experience all the symptoms at once. The signs that develop differ depending on the person. Some of the common symptoms associated with MCS include: 

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Congestion
  • Itching
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Heart rhythm changes
  • Issues with breathing
  • Muscle stiffness or pain
  • Skin rash 
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating or gas 
  • Confusion 
  • Memory issues 
  • Changes in mood
  • Trouble concentrating

These symptoms tend to present with a variety of other disorders as well, so it can be difficult to tell whether they are caused by chemical exposure or by something else entirely. 

What Causes Multiple Chemical Sensitivity? 

The leading cause of MCS is low-level exposure to chemicals. High exposure to chemicals is well-known to cause people to fall ill or exacerbate existing health disorders. 

Determining why some people experience adverse effects from low-level exposure is challenging for medical professionals. Research has not yet found a definitive answer as to why certain people experience these symptoms while others do not. 

One theory surrounding the cause has to do with the immune system. It is thought that low-level exposure may set off an immune response similar to what occurs in people with allergies. It’s also believed that extreme smell sensitivity may set off symptoms, and that people sensitive to smells may physiologically react to chemical exposure by developing symptoms. Pre-existing health conditions such as depression or anxiety may also contribute to MCS. 

Other possible causes include: 

  • Significant exposure to chemicals, such as being subject to a chemical spill 
  • Low-level exposure continues at a steady pace over a long period 
Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash: Tick-Borne Diseases & MCS: is there a connection?

How Lyme Disease Can Lead To MCS

Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are contracted by infected ticks. They can also cause a myriad of symptoms depending on the person. People with these types of bacterial infections can experience mild to moderate to severe symptoms, depending on how long they go untreated and how the bacteria respond to treatment. 

In terms of MCS, some people with a current Lyme disease infection are far more susceptible to developing MCS than those without it. MCS is one of the most common secondary syndromes or illnesses to develop alongside Lyme disease. 

The reason why Lyme disease plays a prominent role in the development of MCS is because of the way it affects the body. Lyme disease causes a lot of stress to the nervous system and the rest of the body. It negatively affects the brain, causing neural circuits to misfire. The tick-borne illness can also affect how the autonomic functions of the brain stem perform. These changes to the brain cause it to remain on alert, and when that happens, the brain sends unnecessary alarms to glands that produce hormones to cope with the stress. 

One particular area of the brain, the H-P-A axis, tends to remain hyperactive in people with Lyme disease. When this axis is hyperactive, normally unharmful substances in the environment are mistaken for pathogens or substances designed to cause the body harm. The brain produces histamine in response to the chemicals and, thus, causes symptoms. 

How Do You Get Rid Of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity? 

There is no cure for MCS, so getting rid of it can be challenging. The best things a person can do to cope with MCS are: 

  • Avoid chemical exposure wherever possible 
  • Boost the action of the immune system 
  • Eat a healthy diet that doesn’t encourage histamine production 
  • Use an air purifier where possible 

Research regarding MCS is ongoing to determine better possible treatments and other ways to cope with the syndrome. 

Featured image by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash