Tick-Borne Anaplasmosis Alert in Maine

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert on August 9 about an increase in anaplasmosis cases this year. Anaplasmosis is an emerging infectious disease in Maine. The vector-borne bacterial pathogen is transmitted via Ixodes scapularis, or deer ticks, which is also feared for Lyme disease.

Symptoms of anaplasmosis include headache, fever, chills, confusion, and abdominal pain. The CDC also illustrates certain difficulties in clinical diagnosis. Specifically, the generalized symptoms can be easily confused with other ailments, and lab-based antigen tests generally do not show up positive in the first 7-10 days of illness. Unlike other tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, there is very rarely a rash associated with this bacterial infection. However, it is possible, though rare, to contract anaplasmosis through blood transfusion and organ donations much like its fellow tick-borne illness babesiosis.

As a result, the best treatment may be prevention. When it comes to ticks, scanning after outdoor activity and proper removal with tweezers or a tick spoon can be effective. If symptoms begin, contact a physician immediately and a simple treatment regimen with Doxycycline, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, will most likely resolve the illness.

So far this year, 38 cases of anaplasmosis have been reported in Maine, an increase from the 26 of 2011. However, a point of concern is the large influx of people into Maine, self-identified as Vacationland, during the summer months for outdoor activities that increase exposure to deer ticks.

Anaplasmosis fits into a larger picture of increasing tick-borne diseases in the United States. Since the mid-1990s anaplasmosis nationwide has exhibited a steadily increasing curve from near non-existence to a thousand incident cases annually. The cases tend to cluster in the summer months and disproportionately affect the elderly and immunocompromised.

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