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Disease: Ehrlichiosis Ehrlichiosis
Category: Infectious diseases

Disease Definition:

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks, which causes flu-like symptoms. Anaplasmosis, another tick-borne infection, is closely related to ehrlichiosis. However, these two illnesses have distinct differences and are caused by different microorganisms.


Within a week or two of a tick bite, the signs and symptoms of ehrlichiosis will appear which could range from mild body aches to severe fever. This illness improves within a few days in case it is treated quickly with antibiotics.


During spring and summer, this illness is quite common, especially when ticks are active and people are more likely to be outdoors.


Avoiding tick bites is the best way of preventing these infections. The best chance of avoiding ehrlichios is by tick repellents, thorough body checks after being outside and proper removal of ticks.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


When someone gets bitten by a tick infected with ehrlichia or anaplasma, in the following 5 to 14 days of the bite they will experience some of these signs and symptoms:


  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Confusion
  • Mild fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Rash, which is rare in adults but more frequent in children.


In some cases, when people get infected with ehrlichiosis, they may have very mild symptoms that they never seek medical attention, and their body fights off the illness on its own. However, when the symptoms are persistent and remain untreated, the illness could get serious enough for hospitalization. Someone should seek medical care in case they experience any of the earlier mentioned symptoms soon after being somewhere that they know has ticks.


This illness is caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis bacteria, which is primarily transmitted by the Lone Star tick.


Ticks latch onto a host and feed on their blood until they’re swollen to multiple times their normal size. Ticks that carry disease-producing bacteria can transmit it to a healthy host during feeding, or if the host is infected, they could pick up the bacteria themselves.


A person has to be bitten with an infected tick in order to get ehrlichiosis. Through the bite, the bacteria enter the person’s skin and make their way into the bloodstream. A tick must be attached and feeding for at least 24 hours before bacteria can be transmitted. When an attached tick has a swollen appearance, it may indicate that enough time has elapsed to transmit the bacteria, however, infection could be prevented by removing the tick as soon as possible.



In case a person doesn’t seek prompt treatment, this illness could have serious effects on an otherwise healthy adult or child.


People, whose immune systems are weakened, are at a higher risk of developing more-serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. Some of the serious complications of untreated infections include:


  • Seizures
  • Respiratory failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Prolonged fever
  • Coma


A person will probably be given a prescription for an antibiotic such as tetracycline or doxycycline in case they are suspected of having ehrlichiosis. After taking the antibiotics for 7 to 10 days, they will notice that their signs and symptoms have subsided. However, if a person is at risk of contracting Lyme disease as well, they may be recommended taking antibiotics for a longer period.


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