New tick-borne disease causes recurring fever, flu

Jan 22, 2013

There’s a new tick-borne disease in town.

It’s like Lyme disease and has recently been spotted in the Northeastern United States, as well as in a few parts of the Upper Midwest.

Deer ticks in test tubes, full after a blood meal.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The bacteria that causes this new disease is called Borrelia miyamotoi, and, like Lyme, it hitches a ride in ticks. It can cause something like the flu, or a fever that just keeps coming back. Scientists first identified it in Japan. But a couple of years ago, Yale researchers discovered it in deer ticks in New England.

They’ve just published the results of a study that examined blood samples from hundreds of New Englanders. About one percent of those people were carrying the disease but didn’t know it. And about three percent of people tested who were already sick with Lyme were also carrying the B. miyamotoi.

Yale epidemiologist Peter Krause says they’re pretty confident it’s spreading.

“I think the likelihood is it will be found in most areas where Lyme disease is found. Although the number of cases we expect to be probably seven times less based on the data that we have," said Krause.

A test has been developed to screen for the infection, although it’s not yet widely available. Common antibiotics usually clear it up.

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