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Some tick-borne illnesses have similar symptoms to COVID-19 – here's what you need to know

Mild winter could make this year's tick season especially tough, experts say
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 18:22:49-04

(WXYZ) — As more Michiganders get outdoors this summer, health experts warn that there are some tick-borne illnesses that have symptoms that are similar to the coronavirus.

If you’re trading in crowds and inside gatherings for the peace and quiet of a Michigan forest in order to avoid the coronavirus, you won’t be totally out of the woods when it comes to health risks.

“One of the things that’s happened with COVID-19 is lawn care is not necessarily as up to date… and some of the wild animal populations are a little higher, so it would not surprise me if tick activity would have been higher as well,” said Dr. Matthew Sims, Director of Infectious Disease Research for Beaumont Health.

Dr. Sims says tick-borne illnesses can have some similar symptoms to those from the coronavirus.

“Most viral infections like COVID-19 potentially cause muscle aches and pains, and fever, and tick-borne illnesses often have muscle aches and pains and fever. So there is an overlap of symptoms, but tick-borne illnesses as a whole don’t tend to give you respiratory symptoms,” said Dr. Sims.

Lyme disease and the tick-borne illness called anaplasmosis have both been recorded in Michigan.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, so far in 2020, there are 62 confirmed cases of Lyme disease, and 30 probable cases.

There are only two cases of confirmed anaplasmosis in 2020, and it’s not clear whether those originated in Michigan. In one case, the person had travelled to Arizona about a month before the onset of the illness, and the patient could have been infected in that state.

“The other case is still actively being investigated,” said MDHHS spokeswoman, Lynn Sutfin. She added that the travel history in that case is unknown.

According to MDHHS, the small number of anaplasmosis cases have fluctuated over the last few years, ranging from four cases in 2014 to a high of 15 in 2016, and cases have been decreasing since then.

“Acquiring anaplasmosis within Michigan is rare,” said Sutfin.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sims says you should always check for deer ticks after any outdoor excursion.

“The real key is you have to inspect. If there’s an area you can’t tell, get somebody to look, like on your back. But hair-covered areas tend to be the hardest, because you miss it. I had one patient once who had it in the eyebrow,” said Dr. Sims.

Health experts say remember to use bug spray that contains DEET to ward off ticks, and if you do start feeling symptoms of any kind, reach out to your doctor to start checking to see whether it’s COVID-19 or something else.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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