Cape Codders are used to checking for ticks and watching for symptoms of Lyme disease but this year things are a little different as many people are being struck down with a novel tick-borne infection, miyamotoi. Cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis are also continuing to increase, causing confusion among many locals and physicians as symptoms often overlap.
Cape Cod Healthcare Infectious Disease Services director, Dr. Laurel Miller, revealed that around 14 people have been diagnosed with miyamotoi already this summer in the Cape. This was on the basis of a test developed by a Norwood laboratory. The same number of anaplasmosis cases has also been recorded this year in the area, and a couple of weeks ago five people were admitted to Cape Cod Hospital with Lyme disease, babesiosis, or a combination of the two infections.
What is Miyamotoi?
Miyamotoi is a relative newcomer to the US, with the first documented case occurring in early 2013. So far the infection has not proven fatal but both anaplasmosis and babesiosis can be deadly in those with weakened immunity, including odler adults. Lyme disease has also been linked to a number of deaths, typically from heart problems.
Cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis have increased almost four-fold in the past five years in Massachusetts and last year there were 37 cases, and 151 cases of babesiosis, on the Cape and Islands. Confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease totalled 387 in Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties, accoutning for more than 5% of the state’s total of 5,665.
Doxycycline is the drug of choice for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and miyamotoi but babesiosis does not respond to this antibiotic. The risk of becoming infected with babesia is higher on the Cape than almost anywhere else in the US and most locals know to wear long pants and long sleeved clothing during the warmer months and to use tick-repellent and check for ticks after being outside, even in your own backyard.
Doctors in the area are being advised by public health officials to test patients for Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and miyamotoi this summer, especially as the CDC wants to keep track of the spread of the newly discovered infection. Miyamotoi itself may not be that new as people haven’t been looking for it before now and symptoms may overlap with those of coinfections. As miyamotoi is eradicated by the same antibiotics as are used for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses it is possible that people have been successfully treated for miaymotoi without even knowing they had it.