Public health fact sheet
Burlington County Health Department 15 Pioneer Blvd. Westampton, NJ 08060
Telephone (609) 265-5548 Fax (609) 265-3152
What is ehrlichiosis?
Ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne disease which can be caused by two different organisms. Human monocytic ehrlichiosis
(HME) is transmitted by the lone star tick and human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) is transmitted by the deer
tick. Who gets ehrlichiosis?
Anyone can get ehrlichiosis, although most cases are in adults. People who spend time outdoors in areas known to
have lots of ticks from April until October are at greatest risk for exposure. How is ehrlichiosis transmitted?
Ehrlichiosis is spread by the bite of infected ticks, including the deer tick and the lone star tick. Ehrlichiosis cannot
be spread from person to person. What are the symptoms of ehrlichiosis?
The symptoms of HME and HGE are the same and usually include fever, muscle aches, weakness and headache.
Patients may also experience confusion, nausea, vomiting and joint pain. Unlike Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain
spotted fever, a rash is not common. Infection usually produces mild to moderately severe illness, with high fever
and headache, but may occasionally be life-threatening or even fatal. When do symptoms appear?
Symptoms appear one to three weeks after the bite of an infected tick. However, not
every exposure results in infection. What is the treatment for ehrlichiosis?
Tetracycline antibiotics are usually rapidly effective for ehrlichiosis. Because these
antibiotics can cause dental staining in children, physicians should consult
infectious disease experts when treating children. How should a tick be removed?
• Grasp the mouthparts with tweezers as close as possible to the attachment
(skin) site. Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands. See or call a doctor if there are concerns about incomplete tick removal. Do not attempt to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly, lit cigarettes or other home remedies because these may actually increase the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease.
What can be done to prevent ehrlichiosis?
The best prevention is to avoid tick bites. Deer ticks are often found near the ground in brushy, wooded or high
grassy areas. Ticks are most active during the months of April through September. If you live in or visit an area
likely to have deer ticks, take the following precautions:
• Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, and tuck your pant legs tightly into your socks. (Light colors will help
you spot the ticks on your clothes before they reach your skin.)
• Stay to the middle of paths when walking or hiking. • On exposed skin use a repellent that contains the active ingredient DEET (the chemical N-N-diethyl-meta-
toluamide). Always follow the directions on the label. DEET can be poisonous if overused. Avoid using repellents with DEET concentrations above 10-15% for children and with concentrations above 30-35% for adults. Do not apply repellents to the hands or faces of young children. Repellents should never be used on infants. Cream, lotion or stick formulas with low amounts of alcohol are best for use on the skin. The insecticide permethrin, which kills ticks on contact, can also be used to protect against ticks. In order to work well, this chemical can only be used on clothing.
• Make the area around your home less attractive to ticks by removing leaf litter and brush, mowing lawns
regularly, and trimming low-lying bushes. Keeping woodpiles and birdfeeders off the ground and in sunny areas away from your home can help keep away rodents that may have ticks on them. If you use pesticides around your home, always follow the label instructions and never use pesticides near streams or other bodies of water.
• Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to protect your pets against ticks. • Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks every day. Remember deer ticks, especially the nymphs,
are only the size of a poppy seed. Their favorite places to attach are on the legs, in the groin, in the armpits, along the hairline, and in or behind the ears.
• Remove any ticks promptly using fine point tweezers. Do not use your bare fingers to remove a tick. Grasp the
tick as close to the skin as possible and, without squeezing or twisting, pull the tick straight out with steady pressure. Once removed, disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol.
• Know the symptoms of Ehrlichiosis. If you have been someplace likely to have ticks between April and
September and you develop Ehrlichiosis symptoms, see a doctor right away.
Where can you get more information?
• Your doctor, nurse or clinic • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at: • The Burlington County Department of Health at (609)-265-5548 or
• The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) at (609) 588-7465 or on the NJDHSS
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