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Woman’s Mystery Illness Turns Out to Be Tick-Borne Disease

By Gillian Mohney and Dr. Sabrina Anna Rebis

A 66-year-old woman’s mysterious illness that left her feverish and with slurred speech initially stumped her doctors. As the woman’s condition continued to deteriorate, an infectious disease doctor eventually identified the cause — the woman had contracted a bacterial disease caused by a tick bite.

Researchers from George Washington University School of Medicine wrote about deciphering the medical mystery in a case study published in the BMJ medical journal today. Tick-borne illnesses are concerning to many health experts because the symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses.

“Many of these tick-borne illnesses all end up looking and sounding the same — joint, bone aches, sometimes they have a little nausea and vomiting,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease physician at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital who was not involved in the study. “You don’t know if that’s from Lyme, or flu. Many times they get better on their own.”

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