Ehrlichiosis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Ehrlichiosis is a contagious disease because bacteria is transmitted through lice and its symptoms resemble flu. Signs and symptoms of ehrlichiosis range from mild ones such as body aches to high fever and usually appear within 1-2 weeks of a tick bite. If treated quickly with the right antibiotics, ehrlichiosis generally improves within a few days.

Another infectious disease transmitted by lice is anaplasmosis, which is also closely related to this ehrilchiosis. However, there are some striking differences other than because of the different causes of microorganisms. The best way to prevent this infection is to prevent flea bites. The use of anti-potion lotion throughout the body, maintaining cleanliness and sanitation is a way to prevent flea bites.

Causes of Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is caused by ehrlichia bacteria and is transmitted primarily by Lone Star lice. Mites eat from the blood, stick to humans (host) and eat human blood until the flea body swells for several times its normal size. During eating, the fleas that carry these disease-producing bacteria can transmit the bacteria to healthy humans. Or they can pick up their own bacteria if the hosts that are usually animals, like deer or animals in the forest, are infected.

Usually, to get ehrlichiosis, you must be bitten by an infected flea. Bacteria enter the skin through bites and eventually make their way into your bloodstream. Before bacteria can be transmitted, fleas must eat for at least 24 hours. Fleas attached with a swollen appearance may have taken a long time and enough time for bacterial transmission. Removing lice as soon as possible can prevent infection.

It is also possible that ehrlichiosis can be transmitted through blood transfusions, from mother to fetus, and through direct contact with infected animals, such as slaughtering animals.

Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis

If lice carrying bacteria cause ehrlichiosis have been feeding for at least 24 hours, such as the Mayo Clinic launch, the following flu-like signs and symptoms may appear, usually within seven to 14 days after being bitten:

  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle ache
  • Nausea
  • Gag
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Confusion
  • Rash
  • Cough

Some people who are infected with ehrlichiosis may have symptoms so mild that they never seek medical help, and the body will fight the disease itself. But untreated ehrlichiosis with persistent symptoms can cause illness that is serious enough to require hospitalization.

Ehrlichiosis diagnosis

These infections due to tick bites are difficult to diagnose based solely on signs and symptoms because the signs and symptoms, such as fever and muscle aches, are similar to many other diseases.

Abnormal findings on a number of blood tests, combined with a history of exposure, can cause doctors to suspect the disease due to tick bites. If you have ehrlichiosis, a blood test will likely show:

  • Low white blood cell count – these cells are the body’s disease fighters
  • Low platelet counts – platelets which are important for blood clotting
  • Abnormal liver function

More specific blood tests for ehrlichiosis include:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This test helps identify certain genes that are unique to ehrlichiosis. However, if you have started treatment, the results of this test may be affected.
  • Indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFA). This test is not used as often as the PCR test, but it is able to measure the amount of antibodies in your blood for the bacteria that causes ehrlichiosis.

If you live in an area where there are a lot of lice, the doctor will start giving antibiotics before the results of blood tests come out based on the results of previous treatments that show improvement for some diseases caused by tick bites.

When to visit a doctor?
Symptoms that appear will be realized by the patient when 14 days after the lice bite. If you get symptoms within 2 weeks after a tick bite, call your doctor immediately. If you experience the signs and symptoms mentioned above, please visit your doctor. Convince your doctor that you have just had a tick bite or visited an area with a large flea population.

Treating Ehrlichiosis

If your doctor suspects that you have ehrlichiosis or other tick-borne diseases, you may receive a prescription for doxycycline antibiotics (Doryx, Vibramycin). You will usually take antibiotics for up to 10 days. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics for a longer period if the clinical symptoms are severe.

If you are pregnant, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics rifampicin (Rifadin, Rimactane), because doxycycline is not recommended during pregnancy.

Treatment at home

If you find lice on your body, don’t worry. If you take the lice within 24 hours after they are attached to the skin, you will not get ehrlichiosis or other tick bites. Follow the steps for safe picking of fleas:

  • Use tweezers if possible. Use flat-tipped tweezers or protect your hands with a tissue or gloves to pick up lice. Saliva and lice body fluids can carry bacteria and bacteria can enter the body through wounds or mucous membranes on the skin.
  • Remove lice slowly. Take the lice in the mouth where it has stuck to the skin. Pull up and out of your skin steadily and slowly without jerking or twisting.

If you pull a flea too quickly or pick up a flea by pulling on the body, chances are the lice will separate leaving the mouth on your skin. If the mouth lice are still attached, take with tweezers.

Petroleum jelly and heat treatment are not effective treatments for removing lice from your skin. This method can actually make the problem worse by triggering fleas to release more body fluids, and that can cause further infections.

  • Killing fleas. After the lice have been removed, kill them by wrapping them in alcoholic paper towels. Do not destroy the lice on your hands or nails, because the liquid that the louse releases may contain bacteria.
  • Clean the bite area. Wash the bite area thoroughly with antiseptic or soap and water. And, wash your hands properly.
  • Bite area monitor. In the days and weeks that follow, monitor the bite site and watch for signs and symptoms that develop such as fever, muscle aches or joint pain.

If you see something unusual, visit a doctor.

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