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A New Disease, a New Reason to Hate And Fear Ticks

A worrisome new tick-borne disease, similar to Lyme disease but caused by a different microbe, turned up in 18 patients in southern New England

Photo: Yale

A worrisome new tick-borne disease turned up in 18 patients in southern New England, the Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine reports. The disease, which is so new it still lacks a name, shares similarities with Lyme disease but is caused by a different bacterium, Borrelia miyamotoi.

Yale scientists first found the bacteria culprit in Connecticut deer ticks more than a decade ago. Unlike other new diseases where symptoms first occur in people and then scientists must scramble to figure out the cause, this disease is the first carried by ticks to be discovered prior to human infection.

In 2011, the first evidence of infection in humans popped up in Russia. These new cases, however, are the first time the disease has been confirmed in the U.S. 

Symptoms are similar to that of Lyme disease, the scientists report, but additional maladies, such as a relapsing fever, may also accompany it. The same antibiotic treatment used for Lyme disease, they think, should also work to eliminate the new bacteria.

While all of these new cases occurred in the Northeast, the researchers suspect that it likely has or will pop up in other human populations that regularly suffer from Lyme disease.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Tick Bites Can Cause Freak Allergy to Meat Eating 
The Next West Nile Virus? 

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