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What is anaplasmosis?

Anaplasmosis is an illness spread by ticks infected with the bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum. These bacteria can be spread to humans by blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), also known as deer ticks.

How does a person get anaplasmosis?

Tick Bites

Anaplasmosis is primarily spread to people by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks in the northern part of Illinois, as well as other midwestern states and in the Northeastern United States. Tick bites are typically painless and most people don’t remember being bitten.

Blood Transfusion and Organ Transplants

In rare cases, anaplasmosis has been spread to people by blood transfusions and organ transplants.

What are the symptoms of anaplasmosis?

Symptoms typically begin within 14 days after the bite of an infected tick.

Early Illness Symptoms (1-5 days after tick bite):

  • Fever, chills
  • Rash
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite.

Late Illness Symptoms (6-14 days after tick bite):

  • Respiratory failure
  • Bleeding problems
  • Organ failure
  • Death

When should I seek a physician’s care after a tick bite?

If you experience a rash, fever, or any unexplained illness within two weeks following a tick bite or being in a tick habitat, you should consult your physician and describe your symptoms and that you were (or may have been) bitten by a tick.

Your doctor may order blood tests to look for evidence of anaplasmosis or other tickborne illnesses that cause similar symptoms. It may take several weeks to get the results of your blood test, so your doctor may prescribe antibiotics while you wait for the test results.

Risk factors for severe illness may include delayed treatment, advanced age, and conditions that may cause a weakened immune system (such as some cancer treatments, advanced HIV infection, prior organ transplants, or some medications).

Can anaplasmosis be treated?

Yes. Doxycycline is the antibiotic treatment recommended for adults and children of all ages.

How do I avoid getting bitten by a tick?

The best way to protect yourself against anaplasmosis and other tickborne illnesses is to avoid tick bites. This includes avoiding tick-infested areas. However, if you live in or visit an area where ticks live, such as wooded areas or areas with tall grass and weeds, follow these precautions against anaplasmosis and other tickborne diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia:

  • Wear light-colored, protective clothing — long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, boots or sturdy shoes, and a head covering. Tuck trouser cuffs into socks. Tape the area where pants and socks meet so ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
  • Apply insect repellant containing 10% to 30% DEET primarily to clothes. Apply sparingly to exposed skin. Do not spray directly to the face. Spray the insect repellant onto hands and then apply to face. Avoid sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth, and nasal membranes. Be sure to wash treated skin after coming indoors. Use repellents containing permethrin to treat clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) — but not skin. Always follow label directions and do not misuse or overuse insect repellents. Always supervise children in the use of insect repellents.
  • Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
  • Check yourself, children, and other family members every 2 to 3 hours for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit a tickborne disease until they have been attached for four or more hours. If your pets spend time outdoors, regularly check them for ticks, too.

How should an attached tick be removed?

If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it promptly using the step-by-step instructions below.

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by:
    • Putting it in alcohol
    • Placing it in a sealed bag/container
    • Wrapping it tightly in tape
    • Flushing it down the toilet
  5. Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
  6. Make sure the property around your home is unattractive to ticks. Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut.