February 8, 2011

Ehrlichiosis In Humans: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Posted in Category : Natural Cures

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease that affects both animals and humans. Ehrlichiosis in humans is caused by the bacteria ehrlichia, and it is transmitted by ticks. The bacteria invade the body and live within the white blood cells, infecting them. White blood cells play a vital role in protecting the body against invading bacteria; however, ehrlichia infect white blood cells and thus interferes with the immune system of the body. If left untreated, people with ehrlichiosis are vulnerable to other infections.

Several types of human ehrlichiosis are recognized, and the most prevalent types are human monocyclic ehrlichiosis (HME) and human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA). Ehrlichiosis can affect anyone, but persons who spend more time in tick-infested environments, owning a pet that may bring a tick home and walking or playing in high grasses, are more prone to it. As mentioned earlier, the bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis in humans are spread through tick bites. Lone star tick, the blacklegged tick, and Western black-legged tick are some of the most common ticks that spread the disease.


Ehrlichiosis symptoms develop within two weeks after a tick bite, and this period is known as the incubation period. Since a tick bite is painless, many people may not even aware of being bitten by a tick. The symptoms of this infection are similar to the flu. The most common symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Malaise, general ill feeling
  • Rashes
  • Red eyes
  • Confusion

The long-term effects of ehrlichiosis include bleeding disorders and difficulty in breathing.


Ehrlichiosis is a serious condition, and if not treated, it can be fatal. Diagnosis of the ehrlichiosis is made based on the clinical signs and symptoms. Other diagnostics include specialized laboratory tests such as complete blood count, granulocyte stain, and fluorescent antibody test. Whenever ehrlichiosis is suspected, the antibiotic doxycycline should be initiated for adults and children of all ages. Fever generally subsides within three days. If the patient fails to respond to doxycycline, then the patient’s condition may not be due to ehrlichiosis.

Treatment should be initiated after the fever subsides. Generally, the duration of treatment is two weeks. However, treatment should be continued until there is evidence of clinical improvement. If untreated, ehrlichiosis may lead to complication. Some of the long-term effects of ehrlichiosis (in addition to those mentioned above) include:

  • Coma
  • Infection
  • Organ damage such as kidney damage, lung damage, etc.
  • Seizures


Lifestyle changes and certain precautions help to prevent ehrlichiosis. Since ehrlichiosis is caused by tick bites, preventing tick bites helps to avoid tick-borne diseases.

  • Avoid long grasses and dense bushy areas while hiking.
  • Wear light colored clothing that helps to notice ticks easily.
  • Use insect repellents.
  • Wear clothing to cover the skin.
  • Avoid sandals or open toe shoes.
  • Stay on well-beaten paths as ticks prefer grassy areas.
  • Ensure to inspect your body when you return from the garden or outing.
  • Make sure to do a daily inspection for ticks on your pet.

Sometimes, without your knowledge, ticks may attach to your skin. Do not get alarmed. In order to cause disease, a tick must be attached to the body for at least 24 hours. Thus, early removal of the tick can prevent the infection. Use tweezers to remove the ticks as the saliva of the tick or bodily fluids can carry the bacteria. Ensure to remove the tick slowly. Kill the tick at once, and clean the bite site with an antiseptic lotion. Note down the date and time the bite happened. Ensure to watch the bite site for a rash or other signs like fever, muscle pain, and see the doctor if you notice anything unusual.


  1. http://www.cdc.gov/Ehrlichiosis/symptoms/index.html
  2. http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/001381.htm
  3. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001381.htm
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730236