Uptick in cases of one tick disease

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Ticks spread disease to humans.  They're spreading one disease more than usual this year.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Health reported there have been 128 confirmed cases of Ehrlichiosis in the state.  That's 45 percent more than the average for the last five years.

Bill Peace is sticking to the asphalt and fixed trails for his regular walks at Blue Springs Lake.  That's after finding eight to ten ticks on him after one walk in the woods.

"They were everywhere," said Peace.

Dr. Bridge Bransteitter, an infectious disease specialist at Centerpoint Medical Center, suspects there are more ticks this year with our wetter, milder weather.  And she suspects more people are spending time outdoors.  That's resulted in more people getting Ehrlichiosis, a bacterial infection from tick bites.  The doctor and her partner have treated at least 10 people with the disease.

"Most people have heard of Lyme Disease, but that's rare here in Missouri.  The one we truly have a lot of in Missouri is Ehrlichiosis," said Dr. Bransteitter.

Ehrlichiosis produces flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, extreme fatigue, muscle pain and nausea. Unlike Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, another common tick-borne disease in Missouri, there is usually no rash with Ehrlichiosis.

Prevention means wearing insect repellent and checking yourself for ticks soon after you've been outdoors.

"General rule of thumb -- the tick needs to be on you for eight to 24 hours for it really to have enough time to transmit the bacteria," said Dr. Bransteitter.

Peace says he's being careful.

"Until the winter comes and kills them off again, I'm gonna kinda be careful where I go," he said.

June and July are the peak months for Ehrlichiosis, but the doctor says you can still get the illness into the fall.

About half the people she's treated had to be hospitalized.  They improved after a few days on intravenous antibiotics. Ehrlichiosis rarely kills.

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