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New Tick-Borne Illness Infects Midwesterners
Date:8/4/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- First they spread Lyme disease, and then babesiosis. Now, deer ticks carrying a newly identified bacterium are infecting residents of the midwestern United States with a disease called ehrlichiosis, and experts say it will likely appear in other areas of the country.

The still unnamed bacterium, which causes fever, body aches and fatigue, has been identified in 25 people in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but has probably infected many more, researchers said in a new study.

"So far we have tested thousands of patients from around the United States, and we have only found it in the blood of patients from Wisconsin and Minnesota," said lead researcher Dr. Bobbi Pritt, director of the Clinical Parasitology and Virology Laboratories at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"We have also found it in ticks. Specifically, in the ticks called Ixodes scapularis, also known as the deer tick," she said. "That's the same little tick that transmits a number of really serious diseases -- Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis," she added.

"Ehrlichiosis is an emerging disease. Its range is expanding throughout the United States," she said. The bacterium, first identified in 2009, was initially confined to a small area in Minnesota, but now is seen throughout the state and in Wisconsin, Pritt explained.

Lyme disease, once confined to Connecticut, is now a problem throughout the country, Pritt noted.

Ehrlichiosis kills white blood cells, causing a feverish illness. Severe cases can involve the lungs, kidneys and brain, and require hospitalization, but rarely result in death, the researchers said in their report, published Aug. 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, Pritt's team describes four cases of ehrlichiosis. All four patients recovered after treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline, which i
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