Public Health Warning: Ticks Carry More Than Lyme Disease

Dogs are sentinels. The Lyme tick Ioxedes Scapularis (black legged tick) carries with it four other bad guys; Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Ehrlichia Equi, Ehrlichia phagocytophilia renamed), Bartonella, Babesia Microti and Mycoplasma seroprevalence in that order. The population of ticks that carry these serious diseases has expanded rapidly across the United States and has especially come down the East Coast from New England to our urban Mid Atlantic areas. Birds migrating serve as reservoirs as well as disseminators via migratory habits. Babesia that traditionally was endemic to Nantucket, Marthas Vineyard and Shelter Island is now being found in the greater Washington, D.C. area. There has been a convergence of ecological change especially where there is urban sprawl. Deer numbers have escalated in the past one hundred years. Global warming has given ticks like Amblyoma Americanum a more northward range, Dogs that remain infected with tick disease are being transported into nonendemic areas and therefore veterinarians in any part of the world could see tick disease. Anaplasmosis is an emerging disease, surpassing Lyme in some parts of the country. Ehrlichiosis is the second most common canine infectious disease in the United States.

Fortunately, dogs have adapted much better over the years to tick disease than people with much better immunities. HGE (Human Granulocytic Ehrlichriosis) or anaplasmosis is a much more fulminating disease in people. It has a quicker incubation than Lyme of about 20 days and can be transmitted in less than 24 hours. HME (Human MonoMarocytic Ehrlichrosis) is caused by E. Canis. The dog 4 snap test may cross react with E. Chaffiensis, another cause of HME. Frightening numbers of positive cases has iniated a heightened awareness of co infection in dogs and has generated public health concerns for seroprevalence in our neighborhood.

,p>Such was the case for Pat Dickinson and her dog “Barbie” of Gaithersburg, M.D.. Fibrosis had hardened Pats lungs in late 2004 and doctors struggled to isolate her illness. Two years later the 55 year old brought her dog to Town and Country Animal Clinic in Olney Maryland where Dr. Wendy Walker screened her dog with the 4 dot snap test. “Barbie” was positive for Lyme and E. Canis but asymptomatic, unlike her owner. Pat disclosed her health horror story of being on a waiting list for a lung transplant, as she was down to 50% lung function. Suffering from chronic fatigue and complete debilitation, she had hyperprotenemia and a monoclonal gammopathy. At the urgency of Dr. Walker to seek immediate tick screening, Pat was soon diagnosed by Dr. Ken Singleton to have Babesia Microti, HME and Lyme disease.

These were treated in that order. Should Pat have been placed on immunosuppressant drugs for a lung transplant, she would have likely succumbed to the Barbesia. Most of her conventional doctors did not believe that the tick disease had anything to do with the illness. With treatment, Pats lung capacity rebounded to 75% function. Dr. Walker has at least twelve other clients who have been diagnosed with multiple tick diseases and are significantly debilitated. Testing the family dog has opened many a door for conversation to persuade the owner to seek testing.

As public health officials, veterinarians and other doctors must look at the big picture. Everyone should learn to recognize the signs of tick disease; lameness, protein in the urine, protein loss, kidney damage, oculo-neural signs, vasculitis, nose bleeds, anemia, high white blood cell counts, decreased platelet counts, high globulins, and low albumin. Think outside the Lyme box. If someone is being treated for chronic Lyme disease than more than likely they have another tick disease on board. Everyone needs to do home tick checks nightly and use year round tick control as the Lyme tick does not die in the winter. Everyone should seek veterinary advise on the best tick control for their needs.

If you sleep with your dog or cat just remember, you may be sleeping with the enemy.

Provided by Dr. Wendy Walker of Town & Country Animal Clinic

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