Ehrlichiosis (say err-lick-ee-o-sis) is a bacterial infection you can get from ticks. The ticks that spread ehrlichiosis are the Lone Star tick, the deer tick and the dog tick.
It has been known for many years that dogs, cattle and other animals can get ehrlichiosis. Now it's known that ehrlichiosis can occur in humans as well. This infection was first found in humans in the mid-1980s.
Ehrlichiosis can occur in almost any area of the United States (especially in the southeastern and south central areas of the country), as well as in many foreign countries.
The symptoms of ehrlichiosis are like the symptoms of the flu. Symptoms usually begin 1 to 2 weeks after you've been bitten by an infected tick, but they may take up to 1 month to appear. You might have the following symptoms:
Most cases of ehrlichiosis are very mild. Some people who have ehrlichiosis do not develop symptoms and their bodies fight off the infection without treatment.
However, ehrlichiosis can become serious if the infection isn't caught in the early stages. Symptoms of a more serious case of ehrlichiosis include:
Because ehrlichiosis feels like the flu at first, it's very important to see your doctor if you feel like you have the flu a few days to a few weeks after you've been bitten a tick. Be sure to tell your doctor that you were bitten by a tick and when it happened. If you know what kind of tick bit you, be sure to give your doctor that information, also.
People who spend time in areas where ticks are common (either for work or recreation) are at higher risk of getting ehrlichiosis. Ticks usually wait near the top of grassy plants and low bushes for people or animals to brush up against their perch. Ticks will often crawl upward on people's clothes or bodies for up to several hours or more before attaching to the skin.
Your family doctor will perform blood tests to diagnose ehrlichiosis.
Ehrlichiosis is treated with an antibiotic.
The best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to avoid being bitten by ticks. When you are outdoors, follow these guidelines:
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff