Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ehrlichiosis, Flu-like Disease Caused by Flea Bites

Ehrlichiosis, or also called human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME), is a disease that can be caused by tick bites. Apart from mosquitoes, fleas are insects that often carry or spread disease to humans. It bites the infected host and transmits it to other hosts.

According to the Cleveland Clinic website, ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by the bite of a flea infected with the Ehrlichia bacteria. The most common carrier ticks are the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) and the black legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) which are often found living outdoors, such as forests and tall grass.

Ehrlichiosis, Disease Caused by Flea Bites

Ehrlichiosis usually causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Even though it is classified as mild, if left untreated, it can lead to a serious condition. How does ehrlichiosis develop in humans and what should be done to prevent it? Check out some of the following facts.

Signs and symptoms of Ehrlichiosis

Individuals with ehrlichiosis may develop symptoms 5-14 days after the bite of an infected tick. The symptoms usually appear suddenly and are characterized by flu-like symptoms and develop into a number of additional symptoms.

Launching from Columbia University Irving Medical Center, more than 70 percent of people with ehrlichiosis will experience fever, chills, severe headaches, and muscle aches. Sometimes, this is also accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, confusion and a rash in the form of red spots or dots. Rashes are usually more common in children than adults.

Symptoms that don’t get treated immediately can develop into serious complications, even fatal. Moreover, if this occurs in people with weakened immune systems, such as HIV or cancer. Some of these complications include:

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (rare condition).
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome or respiratory failure.
  • Kidney failure (acute kidney injury).
  • Internal bleeding (hemorrhaging).
  • Sepsis.
  • Encephalitis.
  • Heart failure.
  • seizures
  • Coma.

How does ehrlichiosis develop in humans?

Ehrlichiosis occurs due to infection with several types of Ehrlichia bacteria that are transmitted by tick bites, including the lone star tick and black-footed tick. The types of bacteria that cause the infection are Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and Ehrlichia muris eauclairensis.

As we know, fleas get energy to survive by sucking blood. It perches and sticks from one host to another to obtain food. The white-tailed deer is a host of the lone star tick and black-footed tick, which are also known as potential reservoirs of Ehrlichia bacteria.

When a tick bites an infectious agent, it becomes infected. When a flea infected with Ehrlicia bites a human, it draws blood and transfers the disease or infection to our bodies. The bacterial infection then attacks the white blood cells and eventually causes a condition called ehrlichiosis.

Not only that, in rare cases, transmission of ehrlichiosis to humans can also occur through blood transfusions, from mother to fetus, organ transplants, or through direct contact with infected animals, the Mayoclinic and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added. .

Who is most at risk of developing Ehrlichiosis?

Fleas that cause ehrlichiosis are spread in many countries. The lone star tick, which is the main carrier of the bacteria that causes this condition, is common in the south-central, southeastern, and eastern coastal areas of the United States. Meanwhile, black-footed ticks are found in the Upper Midwest, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A person may have a higher risk of developing ehrlichiosis when living or in an area where the tick is spread. In addition, the following factors can also increase the risk. Among them:

  • Be outdoors in the warm spring and summer. The likelihood of exposure increases in the early summer months, such as May through July or September to coincide with the adult and nymphal stages of the flea life cycle that allow them to bite humans.
  • Activities in forest areas, such as hunting, camping, or climbing.
  • Wearing open clothing in areas prone to the spread of ticks so that the skin is easily exposed to ticks.

Cases of ehrlichiosis are very rare, but continue to increase from year to year. In 2000, there were about 200 cases reported, then increased to more than 2,000 cases in 2019.


Ehrlichiosis can be diagnosed through a blood test to determine whether the bacteria that cause this condition are present or not. A physical examination or symptoms are also needed, but cannot be used to make a diagnosis because the symptoms are similar to those of other common conditions.

In addition, information regarding a history of tick bites or exposure to ticks is also important to help make a diagnosis. If a person has ehrlichiosis, the following blood test results may be found:

  • Low white blood cell count. Where blood cells are very important for the immune system.
  • Low blood platelet cell count. These are blood cells that the body needs to help the blood clotting process.
  • There is an increase in liver enzymes, which can indicate abnormalities in liver function.

Treatment and prevention

The most frequently recommended treatment for ehrlichiosis is the administration of the antibiotic doxycycline. It can be used on both children and adults.

This medication is most effective if given as soon as symptoms appear. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics for up to 3 days after the fever and symptoms improve, which is about 5 to 7 days. Usually, with prompt treatment, symptoms improve within the first 24 to 48 hours.

To be aware of ehrlichiosis, here are some ways you can do to prevent it:

  • Using insect repellent containing DEET or other effective ingredients to repel fleas.
    Wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible when going outside, such as in the woods or tall grass areas.
  • Checking for the presence of fleas on the body after being outside the house where there are potentially fleas.
    Check pets for ticks frequently, such as dogs. because he can also carry disease-causing fleas.
  • Ehrlichiosis is a medical condition caused by tick bites infected with Ehrichia bacteria. Early symptoms are usually mild, but can become more serious if left untreated.

See a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above after being exposed to or bitten by a tick for an early check-up. In addition, always be vigilant when traveling or traveling to areas that are common for the spread of ticks carrying ehrlichiosis.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *