Veterinarian and doctor explain tick-borne disease anaplasmosis

Presque Isle We've all heard about Lyme disease - how it comes from the bite of an infected tick and affects the lives of people or animals. Well now a different tick-borne disease is on the rise in our state - that's anaplasmosis...and dogs here in Northern Maine aren't immune.

"A lot of the dogs that we find it in are dogs that have left the County, some of it though are dogs that haven't gone out of town," said Dr. James Hotham.

Dr. Hotham treats about 3-4 dogs a month who have tested positive for anaplasmosis. That's more frequently than in years past. He says many dogs don't show symptoms, but it's picked up on routine blood screening. He says severe symptoms can be lameness, joint swelling, and it can get into blood platelets and cause a bleeding disorder.

"A lot of people think oh my dog doesn't have a tick I've never seen one on it, but they have to remember that a tick is very very tiny," he said.

And very hearty. Dr. Hotham says ticks are an issue any time the temperature is above freezing, and they can survive through the winter because they're insulated by the snow. He says animals who are diagnosed with the disease are treated with an antibiotic and often feel better within a few days...but he adds that precautionary steps like a good flea and tick preventative, preventative vaccinations, periodic screenings, and a once a year screening for diseases are a good idea.

"If we can identify the early signs of disease or early onset of disease before symptoms occur, the outcome is far better than waiting until the dog is very sick," said Dr. Hotham.

And of course it's a disease that humans can get, too. Dr. Thomas Macharia of the Aroostook Medical Center has yet to deal with a case of anaplasmosis in humans here in the County but says if someone were to get it, they'd experience flu-like symptoms, like a fever, muscle aches, and exhaustion.

"Between June and let's say to October, if it looks like flu and it's not flu season then this is one of the things to think about...it could be anaplasma but having said that it's still not as common as people might be fearing," said Dr. Macharia.

Dr. Macharia says very few cases become severe...the best thing people can do is take preventative measures, like wearing protective clothing, avoiding tick infested areas, and checking themselves after they've been outside.

Dr. Macharia says the best source of information on a topic like this is the center for disease control's website, www.cdc.gov.