Tick-bite disease with coronavirus symptoms on the rise in NY

Experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms after venturing into nature? It may not be the coronavirus, but a tick-borne disease with similar symptoms.

Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria primarily contracted via tick bites that can lead to fever, headache, chills and muscle aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — all symptoms the CDC also lists for the coronavirus. If untreated, anaplasmosis can be fatal, and there’s recently been an uptick in cases in New York state.

“That’s one that’s really on the rise, particularly in the northeastern part of New York,” Byron Backenson, deputy director of the state Health Department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, tells the Adirondack Explorer. “[There] are areas of the state where we see ticks that are much more infected with the bacteria that cause anaplasmosis.”

Warning the public of the uptick has been difficult due to the infodemic of COVID-19 news, Backenson notes, as well as the fact that anaplasmosis is routinely overshadowed by Lyme disease — the most prevalent tick-borne illness in New York.

Incident reports for human cases of anaplasmosis in New York state (excluding NYC) tripled between 2009 and 2018, the Explorer reports. The disease, while potentially deadly, is easy to detect.

In addition to the inexplicable recent rise in the bacteria, there is also the risk of unseasoned folks, stir-crazy from quarantine, going hiking as lockdown restrictions lift and the weather heats up. These individuals are less likely to be prepared for avoiding or handling tick bites.

To help educate the public on tick avoidance and removal, the Health Department has a page of general guidance.

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