Tick-borne diseases (TBD) including Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis (SFGR), ehrlichiosis, and increasingly Lyme disease, represent a substantial public health concern throughout much of the Southeastern United States. North Carolina experiences some of the highest rates of SFGR and ehrlichiosis in the United States, often accounting for more than of 10% and 5% of cases reported to the CDC, respectively. Yet timely and accurate surveillance is limited by both the nature of reporting and the limitations of existing diagnostic methods.
“Anecdotally, we see that a lot of patients suspected of having tick-borne disease are tested for Lyme, which is not particularly common in central North Carolina, but are not tested for other, less well-known diseases like Ehrlichiosis, which is endemic to the region and may well be the most frequent cause of tick-borne disease here,” Boyce said.
“The lack of testing for Ehrlichiosis not only means that we are dramatically under-counting the number of cases in the state each year, but also that some patients may not get timely diagnosis and treatment. When treatment is delayed, Ehrlichiosis can progress to severe and even fatal disease.”