BELLINGHAM – A Whatcom County man in his 80s became the first Washington state resident to acquire a case of the tick-born disease anaplasmosis within the state.
The case was discovered Aug. 8, the Washington State Department of Health reported in a news release Thursday and though the man was from Whatcom County, it is believed he was in Mason County working in some brush when he was likely bitten by an infected tick.
The man was hospitalized with severe disease and is now in recovery, the Department of Health reported.
“Not all tick bites will cause disease,” State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases Dr. Scott Lindquist said in the release. “However, people across Washington are at risk for tick-borne illnesses and should take precautions to prevent tick bites.”
Anaplasmosis symptoms are usually mild to moderate in humans, according to the release, and usually include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Antibiotics can be used to treat the disease, but if treatment is delayed or the person has other pre-existing medical conditions, anaplasmosis can cause severe illness.
Until now, only dogs had been diagnosed with locally acquired cases of the disease. But anaplasmosis has been identified in Washington state before, according to the release, though all previous cases involved the person traveling outside the state.
In Washington , the western blacklegged tick – found mostly in western portions of the state – has been found to carry the Anaplasma spp bacteria, which causes the disease, according to the release.
To protect against anaplasmosis, the release recommends:
– Avoiding wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and fallen leaves when possible, as ticks typically live in those areas.
– Wear light-colored clothing and long-sleeved shirts and pants when in tick habitats. This allows you to spot ticks easier and keep them from attaching to skin.
– Apply EPA-registered insect repellents to clothing and skin.
– If you go into tick habitats, carefully check yourself, family members and ticks for ticks when you leave.
– Shower after being outdoors to wash off unattached ticks.
– Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove ticks as soon as they are found and clean the area with antiseptic.
“People that have anaplasmosis symptoms after spending time in a tick-infested area should talk to their health care providers immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Pet owners should also talk to a veterinarian about preventing ticks on pets,” the release states.
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