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N.J. Woman Becomes First In U.S. Diagnosed With New Deer Tick Disease

FLEMINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey woman is lucky to be alive after catching a mysterious illness from a tick bite.

Anna Felix, 81, of Kingwood Township, said she feared her lymphoma had returned or she might have dementia when she started getting weak and confused and lost 30 pounds.

"I remember I couldn't eat too well. And I started needing help to walk," Felix told CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez on Friday.

Initial tests were inconclusive, and although she showed symptoms of Lyme disease, Felix tested negative. Lab technicians at Hunterdon Medical Center made a breakthrough discovery when they examined her spinal fluid and found an unusual strain of bacteria they had never seen before.

"It was really spectacular. We knew we were on to something really big and that she would be treated and cured," lab tech Amy Kurynow said.

Doctor Joseph Gugliotta confirmed it was the bacteria borrelia miyamotoi, a new disease transmitted by the same deer tick that causes Lyme disease. Felix is the first American case of this new tick-transmitted disease.

"Once I verified the organisms were there in the second spinal tap she was treated with a high dose of antibiotics and by five to seven days we were seeing improvement already," Dr. Gugliotta said.

Felix said she likely was bitten by a tick on her farm. She's since made a full recovery, and said she's grateful for the lab's life-saving discovery.

"It is amazing, and I hope that through this other people will get help, too," Felix said.

Because of the newly discovered bacteria, Dr. Gugliotta said he is reviewing old cases and has discovered the strain in other patients who were undiagnosed.

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