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Woman recovering from rare tickborne disease in Pierce County

Pierce County case of anaplasmosis is the second report of a person exposed to the disease in Washington.

A Puyallup woman in her 40s was diagnosed in June with a tickborne disease called anaplasmosis. She was hospitalized and is recovering at home.

She spent time in wooded or brushy areas in Puyallup and Eatonville during the time she was likely exposed and did not travel outside of Washington.

State officials previously found low levels of the bacteria that causes anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilium) in western blacklegged ticks (Ixodes pacificus) collected in Washington. Veterinarians have diagnosed anaplasmosis in several dogs in the state, but this is only the second report of a case in a human with no travel outside of Washington. The other human case was in a Whatcom County man in his 80s diagnosed in 2022. Officials believe he was infected in Mason County.

Anaplasmosis is much more common in the upper midwestern and northeastern United States. Most cases in Washington are in people with recent travel to those areas. Infection usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, including:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting or loss of appetite.

Symptoms usually begin 5-21 days after an infected tick bites someone and transmits the bacteria. The disease is treatable with antibiotics. Anaplasmosis can cause severe illness if you delay medical treatment or if you have a weakened immune system.

Prevent tick bites

Tickborne diseases are rare in Washington, but they do occur. The best way to prevent tickborne diseases is by preventing tick bites. Take precautions in areas that are likely to be infested with ticks, like wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter, especially during spring and summer.

  • Use EPA’s search tool to find a registered insect repellent and apply to exposed skin.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can spot ticks more easily. Long sleeves and pants can help prevent ticks from attaching to skin.
  • After you come indoors, check yourself, your clothing and your pets for ticks and remove any you find.
  • Shower soon after you come inside to wash off any unattached ticks.

If you think you’ve been exposed to a tickborne disease, or experience symptoms after spending time in a tick-infested area, talk with your healthcare provider as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.

You can find more information on tick bites and anaplasmosis from Washington State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of 321 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at tpchd.org.

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