Ehrlichiosis – Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Are you suffering from fever, nausea and headaches? Are you having flat red rashes on your skin? You may be suffering from a condition called Ehrlichiosis. Read and know what is Ehrlichiosis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Ehrlichiosis Definition

Ehrlichiosis is a condition caused by the bite of small, pest-shaped creatures known as Ticks. It is a bacterial infection resulting from spread of germs from the tick to the body of an unsuspecting person. It is one of the three major tick-borne diseases.

Ehrlichiosis disease is correctly pronounced as “er-lik′ē-ō′sis”.

Human Ehrlichiosis Symptoms

Know about some of the main symptoms of Ehrlichiosis.

High Fever

Ehrlichiosis patients generally suffer from higher body temperatures similar to influenza patients.


In sufferers of Ehrlichiosis fatigue is common. Most Ehrlichiosis affected individuals complain about tiredness which even affects

Muscular Pain

Sufferers of Ehrlichiosis also experience pain in the muscles of the body.

Acute Headache

Ehrlichiosis patients also suffer from severe headache due to this condition.


The condition is also characterised by the appearance of flat, red rashes over the skin surface.


Ehrlichiosis patients also suffer from nauseating symptoms and vomiting sensations from time to time.

In rare cases, people affected with Ehrlichiosis suffer from Diarrhea and also have a general ill-feeling that can force them to take bed rest. Tiny pin-sized regions on the skin may bleed similar to Petechial rash lesions.

Ehrlichiosis Causes

As aforementioned, Ehrlichiosis is caused by tick bite. Several varieties of ticks, especially lone star ticks, deer ticks and dog ticks, contain bacteria of the Rickettsiae variety. Bite of a tick transmits the Rickettsiae bacteria from the body of the tick to the body of the victim. Rickettsiae bacteria are also responsible for other disorders like Typhus fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Ehrlichiosis Types

There are two main types of Ehrlichiosis in the United States.

Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis

This condition is caused by an infection resulting from Rickettsial bacteria known as Ehrlichia chaffeensis. These bacteria affect macrophages or cells that feed on invading microorganisms and debris. Also known as HME, this disease occurs in regions where Lone Star Ticks (Amblyomma americanum) and white-tailed Deer Ticks (Odocoileus virginianus) flourish.

Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis

The disorder results from infection by Rickettsial bacteria known as Anaplasma Phagocytophilum. Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis or HGE is also called Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA). Both HME and HGE produce similar symptoms like fever, muscle aches, headache, shaking and chills.

Ehrlichiosis Diagnosis

The diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis infection is difficult. Ehrlichiosis detection is usually done based on the physical symptoms of the sufferer as also taking the history of tick exposure of the patient.

A doctor normally begins diagnosis with a physical examination of the patient. In sufferers of Ehrlichiosis blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature is checked. For diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis blood test and Granulocyte Stain examination is done which helps in getting a report of complete blood cell count in the individual.

With the aid of a Fluorescent Antibody Test in patients of Ehrlichiosis antibodies can also be detected.

Ehrlichiosis Treatment

Ehrlichiosis is usually treated with antibiotics. In people showing Ehrlichiosis symptoms Antibiotic treatment should start immediately. Tetracycline and Doxycycline are generally used to cure this disorder. These drugs should not be used in young children as they can permanently discolor maturing teeth. Only sufferers with fully matured teeth can safely use these medicines. Young kids are recommended not to take these medicines orally.

In patients of Ehrlichiosis Doxycycline is usually the best treatment. Doxycycline usage for 2 weeks or under does not discolor the permanent teeth of a child. People allergic to these medicines can use Rifampicin, a semisynthetic antibiotic, as a substitute.

Ehrlichiosis Prognosis

Following antibiotic treatment, Ehrlichiosis patients usually recover with a day or two. Total recovery generally takes about 3 weeks. The disease rarely causes death.

Ehrlichiosis Complications

Ehrlichiosis can give rise to a number of serious complications like damage of body organs like lungs and kidney. In Ehrlichiosis kidney damage is quite common. Ehrlichiosis untreated can make patients suffer from seizures and also enter a comatose state. In rare cases, death may also occur.

When Is Ehrlichiosis Chronic?

Chronic Ehrlichiosis is an advanced stage of Ehrlichiosis infection caused by bacteria of the Ehrlichia Rickettsia variety. This particular kind of bacteria is transmitted by lone star tick and brown dog tick which transmit an Ehrlichia organism into the bloodstream of a dog. One can only find this kind of Chronic Ehrlichiosis in dogs. Every dog bitten by a tick containing Ehrlichia is susceptible to infection.

The symptoms of Chronic Ehrlichiosis are depression, anemia, weight loss, fever and accumulation of fluids in the legs. This Canine Ehrlichiosis has no cure and it may continue to come back again and again as long as the dog is alive.

Ehrlichiosis Pregnancy

Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis (HGE) rarely affects women during pregnancy. If it affects pregnant women however, the disease may give rise to problems like localized rashes, burning pain in the rashes, vomiting sensation and sore throat. The disease can cause complications in pregnancy and may result in a miscarriage. Doxycycline usage in Pregnancy can complicate conception.

Ehrlichiosis Prevention

Ehrlichiosis can be prevented y simply following a few measures. Applying insect repellents on skin, wearing clothes that cover skin and not venturing near long bushes or grasses during hiking can help you avoid this disorder. Even if you are bitten by a tick, get immediate medical help at the earliest sign of sickness.

Ehrlichiosis is a curable disease and causes no complications if treated early. The key to faster Ehrlichiosis recovery is quick medical treatment. So if you are expericing Ehrlichiosis symptoms or have someone close showing the same, get medical assistance immediately. This will help you a long way in avoiding all future complications and ensuring a faster recovery from this discomforting disorder.


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