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Lyme Coinfection Series – Tick-borne Relapsing Fever

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

By Beth Aust, RN, Holistic Health Coach

This is a continuation of our Lyme and coinfection series to help educate you.

"Knowledge has a beginning but no end.” ~ Geeta Iyengar

What is Tick-borne Relapsing Fever?

Tick-borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF) is a bacterial infection (either Borrelia hermsii, turicatae, or parkeri bacteria) transmitted by a soft-bodied tick (Ornithodoros).

The disease is characterized by recurring episodes (3 days on 7 off) of high fever and can be up to 106.7° during certain phases. TBRF is a rare infection often linked to sleeping in rustic cabins, particularly cabins in mountainous areas of the western United States.

Who is at risk for TBRF?

Those who are at the highest risk for TBRF are those who stay in rustic cabins in the mountainous areas of the West where soft ticks live, however, we are seeing this on the East-coast now as well. People are also at risk for TBRF if they have had a tick bite. People who spend time outdoors in areas where ticks are common, either for work or recreation, are at higher risk of getting any tick-borne disease.

Symptoms of TBRF:

The infection normally shows up as repeated episodes of fever, along with headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea.

Each fever can last about 3 days. The fever then goes away for about 1 week before returning. If left untreated, the cycle can continue several times.

Some other symptoms of TBRF may include:

• Headache • Chills • Sweats • Muscle or joint aches • Nausea • Vomiting

Testing and treatment:

TBRF and other tick-borne diseases can be diagnosed with a blood test. If you have been exposed to ticks and you are having repeated episodes of fever, call your doctor right away.

If you have TBRF, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacteria. It is important that you take all of your antibiotic medicine as your doctor prescribes, even if you are feeling better.

Questions to ask your doctor:

Now your health care provider may not be aware of this rare illness but here are some questions to ask them:

• I’ve been bitten by a tick. Do I need any treatment? • Which form of treatment is best for me? • Is there anything I can do to avoid developing complications? • Which tick or insect repellent is best for me?

Prevention tips:

You can prevent other tick-borne diseases by avoiding being bitten by ticks. When you are outdoors, follow these guidelines:

• Avoid areas that are wooded, brushy, or have tall grass. • Walk in the center of trails. • Wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to see and remove ticks from your clothes. • Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots for added protection.

Find an expert:

If your feel you may have TBRF or any tick-borne illness and your health care provider is not knowledgeable about testing and treatment, contact Integrative Medicine of Central New York to schedule your initial consultation.

Dr. Puc has been trained in tick-borne disease and is knowledgeable and aware of current testing and treatment of Lyme disease and other coinfections such as tick-borne relapsing fever.

Contact the office for more information at (315) 741-5774.

This blog is part of our Lyme Disease and Coinfection series. Please be sure to check out the other blogs in our series, or subscribe to our newsletter for more information.


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