Human Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia Infection)

Human Ehrlichiosis, or Ehrlichia Infection, is an infectious disease caused by various species of bacteria from the genus of Ehrlichia. Since 1935, pathogens have been identified that cause infectious disease in horses, dogs, goats, sheep, and cattle. In America, there are three species from the genus Ehrlichia that cause infectious disease in humans. In Japan, there is one that can cause infectious disease in humans. Scientists are still at work to find more that cause disease in humans.

The beginning stages of Human Ehrlichiosis have symptoms that resemble those of other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose at times. It may be the case that not all individuals infected with Ehrlichiae become sick. One suggestion is that some individuals who have been infected only experience a very mild illness and thus do not consult a doctor.

It can take up to ten days of incubation after a tick bite for symptoms of Human Ehrlichiosis to manifest. Early symptoms may entail muscle aches, fever, malaise, and headache. Further symptoms may entail vomiting, coughing, diarrhea, joint pains, nausea, rash, and confusion. Unlike Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, rashes from Human Ehrlichiosis are rather unusual for patients who are adults. In children, however, Human Ehrlichiosis from the Ehrlichia chaffeensis results in a rash up to sixty percent of the time.

Without treatment, Human Ehrlichiosis may result in hospitalization and severe symptoms including renal failure, meningoencephalitis, coma, extended fever, disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, seizures, or adult respiratory distress syndrome. Up to three percent of infected individuals may die due to Human Ehrlichiosis. There is data that indicates that the Ehrlichia chaffeensis causes more severe infection than other forms of the Ehrlichia bacteria.

How severe a case of Human Ehrlichiosis is may be dependent on the state of an individual’s immune system. Weakened immune systems may result in more severe symptoms. It is suggested that patients who have had a splenectomy, chemotherapy, been on corticosteroids, or have an HIV infection may be at greater risk of experiencing more extreme forms of Human Ehrlichiosis. For such patients, the risk of death from Human Ehrlichiosis is significantly greater than for the general population.

If suspicion of Human Ehrlichiosis arises, treatment should begin immediately rather than waiting for laboratory findings. Lab tests may discover elevated liver enzymes, leucopaenia, and thrombocytopaenia, which are often indicative of Human Ehrlichiosis. Treatment for Human Ehrlichiosis requires antibiotic treatment in the form of doxycycline or various tetracyclines. For pregnant women who are unable to take tetracycline antibiotics, rifampin is a viable option.

Most doctors recommend treatment over a course of at least three days after the initial fever is broken. It usually takes at least a week in total for a person to recover from Human Ehrlichiosis. Cases that have developed complications may take significantly more time. On antibiotic treatment, fever should alleviate within two days at most. If a patient does not respond successfully to an antibiotic of the tetracycline sort, the illness may not be Human Ehrlichiosis. Preventative treatment solely based on a tick bite is considered unnecessary.

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