WILLIAMSPORT — While Pennsylvania is recognized as the leader in lyme disease cases, a physician with UPMC Susquehanna has recently seen an increased number of cases of another type of tick-borne infection.
Dr. Rutul Dalal, medical director of Infectious Disease for UPMC Susquehanna, said nine cases of anaplasmosis have been recorded so far this year in Central Pennsylvania. Last year, just one case was recorded.
“It is transmitted by the deer tick,” Dalal explained. “That it is the same tick that carries lyme disease. It is more on the Eastern Seaboard and Upper Midwest area.”
Symptoms can include nausea, fever and vomiting. An infected patient’s blood will test negative for lime disease.
“You need to look out for this particular infection or you might miss it and the patient may suffer,” Dalal said. “There is a 1% chance that, if you do not start treatment in time, it may be fatal.”
He said the infection is typically treated with the antibiotic doxycycline, which a patient takes over a two-week period.
Dalal also highlighted several other tick-born illnesses which can occur in Central Pennsylvania. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is transmitted by the American Brown Dog Tick.
“We have seen one or two cases,” Dalal said. “This can be a lethal illness if it’s not caught in time.”
Symptoms include fever, a headache and rash, as well as elevated liver-function levels.
Like with anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be treated with doxycycline.
Another infection, ehrlichia, is transmitted by the American Brown Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick.
“The symptoms are slightly different,” Dalal said. “You will see people having some cough, diarrhea, sometimes even meningitis symptoms.”
Ehrlichia is also treated with doxycycline.
Another type of tick-born illness, powassan tick, has no treatment, Dalal said. The infection affects the central nervous system.
“People will have difficulty speaking, people will be confused,” Dalal said. “People could have seizures. These are symptoms similar to a stroke. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this, just supportive care.”
With supportive care, Dalal said patients will be administered fluids and could be admitted to the intensive care unit.
“You might be put on a ventilator, you might be put in a coma,” he said. “It can be fatal, in 4 to 5% of cases. The remainder, it tends to pass.”
Dalal said tick bites can be prevented by using insect repellant when spending time outside. He also advises wearing long pants and light-colored clothes.
Showers should immediately be taken upon returning inside and clothes should be laundered.
“Irrespective of whether you found a tick, wash your clothes,” Dalal said. “Put them in a dryer, on a high-heat setting. That makes sure if there were ticks, they get pulverized.”
He said it’s also important to immediately seek medical treatment if experiencing any symptoms.
“If you are having fever, body aches, red eyes or body pain, you should run to your primary care provider,” Dalal said. “Make sure you give the right history to your doctor. If you say you are an outdoor person, you may have been exposed.”
While mosquito bites may easily be recalled, Dalal said an individual may not know they’ve been bitten by a tick.
“Make sure you tell your provider where you traveled, what your exposures were,” he said. “Even just hiking along a wooded area can expose you (to ticks).”
Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.