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New York reports increase in anaplasmosis, a rare tick-borne illness

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Health officials in New York’s Onondaga County are alerting residents about a rare tick-borne illness that could cause severe disease after noting an uptick in recent cases. The county’s health commissioner said Thursday that there have been six cases of anaplasmosis already reported in 2021, compared to just three cases reported over the last five years. 

Anaplasmosis is a bacterial disease spread to people through tick bites, primarily involving the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms typically appear within one to two weeks after a bite, and may include fever, chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. 

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Signs of late illness, which may occur if treatment is delayed or if there are other medical issues, can include respiratory failure, bleeding problems, organ failure, or even death. Those who are older or who have weakened immune systems may be at risk for severe illness due to anaplasmosis. 

“In New York State, the disease is spread by the blacklegged tick, which is the same type of tick that typically spreads Lyme disease,” Dr. Indu Gupta, the county’s health commissioner, said in a news release. “If we are diligent in practicing the same prevention measures we’ve learned to prevent Lyme disease, we are protecting ourselves from other tick-borne diseases including anaplasmosis.” 

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The health department advised taking steps to ensure tick prevention such as wearing shoes, light-colored socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt while outdoors, and to consider using insect repellents containing DEET and others approved by the EPA. They also advised checking for ticks after spending time outdoors and removing any promptly. 

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