While the number of the Lyme disease cases are down significantly in Maine so far this year, more than 1,375 cases in 2013 compared to 246 cases reported to date in 2014, another tick borne disease is showing an uptick this year compared to last year in the “Pine Tree State”.
The Maine Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 80 cases of anaplasmosis between Jan.1 and Jul. 24, this compares to a total of 94 cases for the entire 2013.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anaplasmosis was first recognized as a disease of humans in the United States in the mid-1990’s, but did not become a reportable disease until 1999.
Nationally, the number of anaplasmosis cases reported to CDC has increased steadily since the disease became reportable, from 348 cases in 2000, to 1761 cases in 2010.
The organism that causes this disease is called Anaplasma phagocytophilum. It is an intracellular pathogen that is part of the Rickettsia (the same group of bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever amongst other diseases) family.
Formerly known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, and as the former name of the disease implies, it’s an infection of the white blood cells.
People get this infection through the bite of an infected tick. Depending on the part of the United States you are, the tick species is different: the eastern part of the country is the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, and in the western part of the country, Ixodes pacificus, is usually involved. These are deer ticks that are also involved in the transmission of Lyme disease.
After a period of a couple of days to a few weeks, most people infected with Anaplasma show influenza- like symptoms (fever, malaise, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory symptoms such as a cough). Symptoms tend to be more severe in those that are immunosuppressed and the elderly.
The case fatality rate (i.e. the proportion of anaplasmosis patients that reportedly died as a result of infection) has remained low, at less than 1%.
Because A. phagocytophilum infects the white blood cells and circulates in the blood stream, this pathogen may pose a risk to be transmitted through blood transfusions. Anaplasma phagocytophilum has been shown to survive for more than a week in refrigerated blood.
Doxycycline is the first line treatment for adults and children of all ages and should be initiated immediately whenever anaplasmosis is suspected. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page