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Learn about tick-borne illness, how it can become chronic, the challenges with traditional treatment options, and how patients can begin healing.

Understanding Tickborne Replapsing Fever (TRBF)

About Tickborne Relapsing Fever

Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is a bacterial infection caused by certain species of Borrelia bacteria, transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. The main symptoms of TBRF include high fever, headaches, and muscle and joint aches.

One of the distinctive features of TBRF is its cyclical nature, with periods of illness lasting 2-7 days alternating with periods of recovery lasting 4-14 days. Without antibiotic treatment, this cycle can repeat several times, leading to recurrent bouts of illness.

In the United States, TBRF cases are primarily caused by Borrelia hermsii, with most infections occurring in rural, mountainous areas of the western states. The ticks responsible for transmitting B. hermsii, known as soft ticks of the Ornithodoros genus, are commonly found in rodent-infested cabins, particularly in rustic settings near national parks. These ticks feed primarily on rodents but may bite humans if rodent hosts are scarce. Their bites are often painless, and most individuals may not realize they’ve been bitten.

Common Symptoms of Tickborne Relapsing Fever:

  • High fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Shaking chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash (possible but not always present)

Symptoms typically manifest about seven days after the tick bite, with fever being a prominent feature. The illness follows a cyclic pattern of feverish episodes and periods of remission, which can persist for several weeks if left untreated. Complications can arise if TBRF is not promptly addressed, with approximately 5-10% of untreated cases resulting in fatalities, especially if infection occurs during pregnancy.

Preventing TBRF involves awareness of the risk factors associated with tick exposure, particularly in mountain forests where infected ticks may reside. Visitors to such areas should thoroughly check sleeping accommodations for evidence of rodent infestation and take precautions to avoid contact with ticks.