Researchers have found that humans are at risk of contracting a new disease linked to deer ticks in the United States, according to a new study published on Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The disease, which so far has no official name, is said to resemble other "relapsing fever infections" and Lyme disease.
The disease was reportedly first discovered in Japan. The report in NEJM stated that the disease has now been found throughout the U.S. and in all the same species of ticks that are known to carry Lyme disease.
Here is some of the key information that emerged on Thursday regarding this study.
* The disease appears to develop due to an infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia miyamotoi, which is related to the same strain of borrelia that is responsible for various diseases that cause relapsing fevers, according to the NEJM report.
* A spirochete is a wiggly, "spiral-shaped" bacterium, as noted by Biology Online. It is microscopic.
* The first recorded incident of the disease being found in a human was in Russia in 2011. Up until that time it had only been found in certain varieties of ticks.
* Reuters reported on Thursday that this particular bacterium was first noted in Japan in 1995. It was found stateside in 2001.
* Reuters also noted that most U.S. cases of tick-borne illnesses happen in the Northeast, as well as the northern Midwest.
* Antibiotics appear to clear up the infection, but if not given during the first bout of the illness, the person infected often has recurring bouts of fever until the infection is cleared.
* USA Today noted that this particular infection is marked by "flu-like symptoms," including fever and fatigue. People that don't test positive for Lyme disease may still have this type of infection, which is different enough that it requires a separate lab test to detect.
* This new infection is the fifth illness identified in the United States in recent years that has been linked to deer ticks.
* The Los Angeles Times reported that the infection's effect on humans varies greatly depending upon how healthy the person is who contracts it. A relatively healthy person may have the disease without being aware of it, and therefore go undiagnosed.
* In someone whose immune system is weak or compromised, however, the infection can actually cause cognitive issues along with fatigue, fever, and general ill health if left untreated.
* The effects appear to be temporary, however, as long as the person is treated with antibiotics and is able to clear the infection.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.
- Disease & Medical Conditions