Deer ticks have a bad reputation for carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in humans (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is prevalent in the Northeast portion of the United States (as well as becoming increasingly prevalent in other parts of the U.S.) and deer ticks are now associated with a newly discovered bacterial infection (Borrelia miyamotoi), which is the fifth human illness known to be spread by deer ticks, as reported in medical journals in January 2013.
It is thought that the newly discovered bacterium is prevalent in about 1% of the population in areas where Lyme disease is widespread (it is estimated that Lyme disease is 7x to 10x times more prevalent in those areas – the bacterium that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) was found in 31% of the tested deer tick nymphs (young deer ticks) in Rhode Island in 2012). The new disease is so new that it has not been named yet and screening tests for it are not yet available (although they are being developed).
It has been known for about ten years that Borrelia miyamotoi has been found in deer ticks but its source for illness in humans was not established until 2012, when it was linked to illness in 46 Russians. The new disease may explain some symptoms in some people who believe that they have Lyme disease but do not test positive for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, such as severe fatigue, cognitive impairment, etc.
Researchers involved in the study of the Russian patients who had been identified with the new disease decided to study blood samples from patients in the United States. The researchers tested blood samples obtained since 1990 from 584 healthy people from Massachusetts and Rhode Island and found that 1% of the samples tested positive for the Borrelia miyamotoi bacterium. The researchers also found that 3% of 273 southern New Englanders who either had been diagnosed with Lyme disease or were suspected as having Lyme disease were infected with the Borrelia miyamotoi bacterium. Of a small sample of 14 southern New York patients who were studied who had unexplained virus-like illnesses, 21% of them showed evidence that they had been infected by the Borrelia miyamotoi bacterium.
The new disease was suspected in an 80-year-old New Jersey woman whose symptoms included weight loss, confusion, hearing problems, a wobbly gait, and had become withdrawn. She fully recovered from her illness after she received antibiotics.
In six cases of the new disease described in a journal article, all of the patients were treated with antibiotics and all of them fully recovered from their symptoms.
Because it is estimated by the CDC that cases of Lyme disease in the United States may be under-reported by as much as tenfold, there could be a significant number of people who are infected by the Borrelia miyamotoi bacterium who are unaware of their infections and some of whom may have symptoms and would benefit from antibiotic treatment.
If you have been misdiagnosed regarding Lyme disease in the United States, you should consult with a local medical malpractice attorney to investigate whether you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice involving the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose Lyme disease.
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