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Onondaga County Health Officials Monitor Emerging Tickborne Disease As Cases Rise

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The blacklegged tick is known to carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, but also carries Anaplasma phagocytophilum, which causes anaplasmosis.

Onondaga County health officials are monitoring the emergence of a typically rare tick-borne disease that can cause serious illness if left untreated. It’s called anaplasmosis, and it’s a bacterium spread by the same tick that carries Lyme disease. County health commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta says in the previous five years, three cases were reported. So far this year, there have been six.

"We were concerned the way the number jumped. Logically, we can think people have been cooped up inside, went out and probably did not take that many precautions. They got the tick bite, and did not see anything because there was no rash."

That’s distinguishes it from Lyme disease, which usually presents a rash. She says symptoms of anaplasmosis begin within 1 to 2 weeks after the bite of an infected tick.

"Look for any fever, headache, chills, any other symptoms, and check in with the doctor as soon as possible if there's any doubt. Pick up the phone, go in, everyone's open for business now. Get the test done, there are blood tests available. The doctor will evaluate, and provide you with appropriate treatment if it's needed."

She says many of the symptoms are similar to COVID-19 or the flu, but your vaccination status and testing will clear that up. As with many insect-borne diseases or infections, Gupta says prevention is critical. So, that means wearing shoes, long pants, long sleeves, and using insect repellent when outdoors, especially in wooded areas. Then follow up by checking yourself for ticks when you return.

"A lot of health is literally in our hands. What we have, we should use it. What we don't, we find the right places to get checked out."

Gupta says she’ll be adding anaplasmosis to the information she already sends doctors and providers about Lyme and mosquito borne diseases in the coming days.