Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are two tick-borne diseases that have flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and muscular pains. Generally speaking, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis symptoms start to show up 14 days following a tick bite.

You should be able to recover in a few days if you receive prompt treatment and the right antibiotics. Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis both have a risk of serious or even fatal consequences if left untreated.

Avoiding tick bites is the most effective strategy to stop these diseases. Your greatest line of protection against these tick-borne illnesses is to use insect repellents, perform complete body checks after being outside, and remove ticks correctly.

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis: Causes

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are brought on by several microorganisms.

Several Ehrlichia bacterial species are the cause of ehrlichiosis. The principal vector of the germs that cause ehrlichiosis is the Lone Star tick, which may be found in the southern, southeastern, and eastern coastal states. Less often seen carriers in the Upper Midwest are black-legged ticks, sometimes known as deer ticks.

Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the bacteria that causes anaplasmosis. In the Upper Midwest, northeastern states, and central Canada provinces, deer ticks are the main vectors of the disease. Moreover, additional tick species in Europe and Asia as well as the Western black-legged tick in the coastal regions of the West carry it.

The bacterial species Ehrlichia and anaplasma are both members of the same family. All of these infectious pathogens often result in the same symptoms, although each bacteria appears to have a particular target among the immune system cells in the host.

Viruses and Tick Bites

Ticks cling to a host and ingest blood until they are swelled several times their usual size. Ticks can carry germs from one host, such as a deer, to another host, such as a person. Within 24 hours after the tick starts feeding, the bacteria from the tick spreads to the host.

The Propagation of Germs in Other Ways

Via blood transfusions, from mother to fetus, or by direct touch with an infected, dead animal, the germs that cause ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis may spread.

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis: Symptoms

While ehrlichiosis symptoms are typically more severe than those of anaplasmosis, they are similar in both conditions. There are many different symptoms of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, depending on the individual −

  • A mild fever

  • Chills

  • Headache

  • Muscle soreness or aches

  • Feeling ill generally

  • Aching joints

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Reduced appetite

Moreover, but less frequently, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis share the following additional signs and symptoms −

  • Confusion or changes in mood

  • Rash

  • Some people may have the infection but not show any signs of it.

When to Visit a Doctor?

Typically, it takes five to 14 days after a bite to start presenting symptoms. See your doctor if you experience any of the following after being bitten by a tick or perhaps being exposed to ticks.

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis: Risk Factors

Several factors play an important role in the development of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis which includes −

In forested or brushy locations, ticks reside close to the ground. They can only reach a host that brushes up against them since they cannot fly or leap. You are more likely to have a tick bite if −

  • Going outside during the pleasant spring and summer months

  • Taking part in outdoor pursuits such as camping, hiking, or hunting in woodland regions

  • Wearing clothing that exposes your skin in an area where ticks are prevalent

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis: Diagnosis

The diagnosis of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis is mainly done based on history and some of the tests may be required for confirmation and to rule out underlying causes.

Because of their similarities to several other prevalent illnesses, tick-borne infections are challenging to identify purely based on signs and symptoms. Consequently, a history of a tick bite or potential tick exposure is crucial information for making a diagnosis. In addition, your doctor will order tests and do a physical examination.

Blood testing may reveal the following results if you have ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis −

  • Low level of white blood cells, which are immune system cells that combat illness

  • Low blood platelet cell count, which is necessary for blood clotting

  • Abnormal liver function may be indicated by elevated liver enzyme levels.

Blood tests may also reveal a tick-borne illness if they show one of the following −

  • Certain genes that are exclusive to bacteria

  • Antibodies produced by your immune system against microorganisms

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis: Treatment

You will start treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline if your doctor determines that you have ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis, or suspects a diagnosis based on your symptoms and clinical findings.

You'll start taking the medications at least three days after your fever has subsided and your doctor has noticed a decline in other illness symptoms. Five to seven days are the bare minimum for therapy. Antibiotic therapy may be needed for two to three weeks for more severe illnesses.

The antibiotic rifampin may be recommended by your doctor if you are expecting or allergic to doxycycline.

  • Gloves. To safeguard your hands, if at all feasible, put on a pair of medical or equivalent gloves.

  • Tweezers. Grab the tick firmly around its head or mouth and as close to the skin as you can using fine-tipped tweezers.

  • Removal. With no jerks or twists, slowly and gradually pull the tick's body away from your skin. Use clean tweezers to remove any remaining mouthpieces.

  • Disposal. Put the tick in alcohol to kill it. Avoid potential bacterial exposure by not crushing the insect. The dead tick can either be flushed, loosely taped before being disposed of, or frozen.

  • Storage. If you think a tick is infected, you can test it later. The tick should be put in a container.

  • Cleanup. After touching the tick and the area around the tick bite, wash your hands with soap and water. Rubber alcohol can be used to clean the area and your hands.

Applying petroleum jelly, varnish, rubbing alcohol, or a hot match to the tick is not advised.

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis: Prevention

The easiest strategy to prevent getting ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis when you are outside is to stay away from tick bites. As you stroll or work in grassy, forested, or overgrown regions, the majority of ticks will attach themselves to your lower legs and feet. A tick will often climb upward after attaching to your body to locate a place to burrow into your skin.

Use these precautions if you're going to be working or having fun in an area where ticks are likely to be present.


Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis are two bacterial infections that are transmitted by the bite of infected ticks and are closely linked. Humans contract anaplasmosis, formerly known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), via black-legged deer ticks carrying the anaplasma phagocytophila bacteria.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 28-Apr-2023


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