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Tick-borne illness, rarer than Lyme, on the rise in New York

21 hours ago

Credit Vitalii Hulai / Adobe Stock

Tick-borne illnesses are often associated with Lyme disease, which is still one of the most common tick-borne illnesses in New York. An estimated 30% to 50%  of ticks carry the disease.

But in recent years, cases involving another, rarer tick-borne disease called anaplasmosis have been growing. Across the state, experts and local health departments report the number of ticks carrying anaplasma, the organism that causes anaplasmosis, has been increasing in the region.

“We were looking at three or four percent, maybe five percent or more of the ticks had anaplasma, the offending organism,” said Ralph Garruto, one of the directors of Binghamton University’s tick-borne disease center. “Our impression is that probably, you can find five percent, maybe even up to ten percent in areas, it definitely seems to be increasing.”

Garruto said it is difficult to track the actual numbers of tick-borne illnesses, like anaplasmosis and lyme disease. One reason is many physicians still do not test for anaplasmosis, because it has been rare until recently.

Additionally, he said most people think they would know if they had been bitten by a tick, and do not recognize the symptoms.

“Maybe they think they have the flu, maybe they think they have just a – some sort of infectious issue, unrelated,” said Garruto. “Not thinking it has anything to do with lyme, because they’ve not found a tick.”

Because of this, people often do not go to their doctors for testing or treatment, and so the number of reported cases may show only a portion of people who have been infected.

In Broome County, there were zero cases of anaplasmosis in 2014. In 2019, there were 23 cases. This year, 20 more cases have already been reported. The county’s health department warned residents to take precautions, such as using repellants, frequently checking for ticks, and showering within two hours of being in high-concentration areas.

Any residents who suspect they may have symptoms of a tick-borne illness should visit their primary care doctor for testing and treatment.

This story is from partner station WSKG in Binghamton.