Researchers have found a new disease in the northeast part of the U.S. that is transmitted by the same deer tick that also infects people with Lyme disease. Researchers from a number of higher learning institutes including Tufts and Yale said the new disease, which included symptoms similar to the flu, is bacterial and can also produce symptoms such as hearing problems, confusion, withdrawal, weight loss and difficulty walking.
It is estimated by the researchers that 1% of the population in the region where Lyme disease is most prevalent – western Massachusetts, Cape Cod and certain islands off Cape Cod – might have the new disease in their system. The tick is able to transmit the bacteria even though it is only the size of a poppy seed, researchers said. Lyme disease is 10% higher in the areas where it is most prevalent.
Researchers said the disease they just discovered is the fifth human disease that is spread via the deer tick in the area. They said it underscores the big threat that the ticks pose on humans. Since the disease is so new it has not been given a name and there have not been any tests to screen for it developed as of yet for doctors to use.
One of the researchers said that the new disease could be the result of some symptoms that have gone unexplained including cognitive decline and fatigue in people who thought they might have contracted Lyme disease, but their test results were negative for the disease.
What is promising is that thus far the disease has been treatable in all of the people who have reported being stricken by it and has not left any long lasting symptoms.