Those most at risk for serious cases of ehrlichiosis have compromised or suppressed immune systems, Pritt said.
The best way to prevent ehrlichiosis and other tick-borne illnesses is to protect yourself from deer-tick bites, which are most likely to occur in wooded or grassy areas. "Use caution when going outside, use insect repellent and wear long pants, long sleeves, and check yourself for ticks," Pritt said. "Also, try to stay out of long grasses and shrubs."
Doctors might not know to check for ehrlichiosis, Pritt added. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a specific antibody test for the new bacterium, but until it is widely available the study authors suggested doctors use a molecular blood test that detects Ehrlichia DNA in patients who show symptoms.
Genetically, the bacterium is similar to another bacterium -- E. muris -- that infects small rodents and deer in Eastern Europe, but rarely humans. It has not been reported in North America, Pritt noted.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University in New York City, said the report "is testament to the fact that we have more and more ticks, more and more tick-borne illnesses."
This is also a reminder to doctors that ticks spread diseases other than Lyme, Siegel said.
"So long as there are a growing number of ticks, new bacteria are likely to emerge," Siegel added. "Moreover, these diseases are likely to spread around the country."
For more information on tick-borne diseases, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Bobbi Pritt, M.D., director, Cl
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