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New Tick-Borne Disease Identified In Minn., Wis.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published on Aug. 3, 2011.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Mayo Clinic researchers have identified a new tick-borne disease in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Doctors say it's just as serious as Lyme disease, but harder to detect.

The newly discovered bacterial strain is called Ehrlichiosis, which is spread by tiny deer ticks -- the same ticks that carry Lyme disease.

"We are seeing cases in central Minnesota. The same areas we are seeing Lyme disease," said Davie Nietzel, an Epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Erlichiosis is very different from Lyme disease, where your odds are very good if you are able to remove the tick within 48 hours. Erlichiosis bacteria infects humans as soon as they are bitten.

Ehrlichiosis infects and kills white blood cells and may cause fever, body aches, headache and fatigue. Ehrlichiosis also differs from Lyme disease's symptoms. Unlike Lyme disease, there is no rash that occurs and the symptoms begin occurring almost immediately.

In the past two years, only 25 cases of Ehrlichiosis have been identified in Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, experts believe the numbers are much higher because it can be misdiagnosed, it's a recently discovered strain and the symptoms are similar to other ailments.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but the best prevention is to simply not get bitten.

One tip to help prevent getting bitten is to tuck your jeans into your socks while in the woods, which prevents the ticks from crawling into your pants.

Another tip experts recommend is to stick to trails, because ticks prefer the thick underbrush. Also, spray your shoes and camping equipment with the insecticide Permanone, and you can use a 30 percent DEET concentration on yourself.

Kids are especially vulnerable, according to Mike McLean of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District.

"Kids are out in the woods more. They crash around in the underbrush a little bit more. A lot of the times, kids are giving off a little bit more of the carbon dioxide and the gases that are attractive to insects — not only ticks, but mosquitoes, too," said McLean.

One last prevention tip is to always check yourself and kids for ticks after being in the woods.

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