Ehrlichiosis — the Tick-Borne Disease No One Has Heard Of While some cases of ehrlichiosis are mild, the disease can be severe or fatal if not treated correctly, even in previously healthy people.

By Lonnie Marcum

A ccording to the experts, ticks and the diseases they carry are expanding into new geographic areas. While the majority of Americans have heard of Lyme disease, fewer than 2% have any knowledge of another tick-borne disease called ehrlichiosis. 1,2

As a matter of fact, my own child was CDC-positive for an ehrlichial infection (amongst other things), and when I took her to the Emergency Room for an irregular heartbeat that developed during treatment, the ER doctor told me he had never heard of “Ehrlichia chaffeensis.” True story!


In May 2017, an article in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal warns that ehrlichiosis infections are being “grossly underreported” in the U.S., with as many as 97-99% of infections going unrecognized. They are projecting that the actual number of annual cases could go as high as 50% the number of Lyme disease cases—which would mean we may already have over 150,000 cases of ehrlichiosis annually. 3

There are several factors causing the underreporting:

  • Lack of public education/knowledge—doctors aren’t testing for or diagnosing ehrlichiosis.
  • Some cases are mild enough that patients do not seek medical care or a diagnosis.
  • Insensitive or inaccurate testing methods may result in false-negative diagnosis.
  • Reporting is voluntary and the criteria are restrictive.

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