Tick-Bite Disease With Symptoms Similar to COVID-19 on Rise in New York State

June 13, 2020 Updated: June 13, 2020

A tick-bite disease called anaplasmosis yields similar symptoms to COVID-19, and is reportedly on the rise in New York state.

The bacterial disease is mainly contracted by tick bites and can lead to headache, fever, chills, and muscle aches, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The same symptoms are listed for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.

“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, told the Adirondack Explorer on June 4.

“[There] are areas of the state where we see ticks that are much more infected with the bacteria that cause anaplasmosis,” he added.

New York state, not including New York City, had 300 cases of anaplasmosis in 2009, and that number had more than tripled by 2018, according to the magazine.

The main ticks that spread the bacteria to humans are the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus), according to the CDC. They are also called deer ticks. The disease can be fatal if untreated.

Anaplasmosis is commonly treated with the antibiotic doxycycline, according to the CDC.

Backenson said that public awareness of the rise in anaplasmosis has been dampened due to the current CCP virus pandemic across the nation.

Lyme disease, which is also tick-borne, is the most prevalent in New York, with 5,500 new cases in the state each year.

The New York Health Department has a general guide that covers a number of diseases caused by tick bites.

Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level and tend to cling to tall grass, brush, and shrubs but not too far off the ground. They also roam in lawns and gardens and the edges of woods and old stone walls.

It is best to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter, and vegetation overall to avoid tick bites altogether, the department advises.

But if people wish to garden, hike, or spend time outdoors, they can protect themselves against bites by doing the following:

  • Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and consider using insect repellent.
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks.

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy