Tick-borne diseases continue to climb in Maine, particularly anaplasmosis, which as of Sept. 30, the state has seen 39 more cases than all of 2013, according to the Maine CDC.

Image/ National Atlas of the United States
Image/ National Atlas of the United States

Health officials say there has been 133 cases of bacterial disease in the first 9 months of 2014, while 94 cases were reported in all of 2013.

Other tick borne diseases are also on the rise in Maine. The number of cases of the parasitic disease, babesiosis, is now at 33 cases and the number of Lyme disease infections near 1,000 and is expected to rise further as Lyme reporting is passive and may require a couple of months to get all cases counted.

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 aninfection 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- likesymptoms (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.

Black-legged tick
Ixodes scapularis, a Black-legged tick/CDC

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%.

Related: Maine reports 1st human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis

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