A new tick-borne disease

Here is something more for our tapeworm-fearing friends to worry about, though it’s doubtful they will-

Emerging Tick-Borne Disease. ScienceDaily






  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Three years ago I came down with human parvovirus, although the time between the illness and the diagnosis was four months, as at the beginning neither I nor anyone else had any idea what it was. Symptoms were a 24/7 jackhammer headache (intracranial swelling), severe joint pain, diarrhea, and chest and back rashs. I had just come out of elk hunting camp the 3d week of October.

    I was completely incapacitated for about 10 days, not even able to load the wood stove for heat (my only heat is a wood stove), so eventually I had to sleep it off in a friend’s guest cabin. For six months following I had trouble concentrating, thinking, and writing. It was not a fun time. It did a real number on my immune system. I still don’t think I’m completely recovered.

    The only reason I was able to get it diagnosed is that by happenstance I met a veterinarian in Riverton who’d had an illness with the exact same symptoms. She’d gone to the ER, and it just happened to be the day that one of the two infectious disease doctors in the State of Wyoming was at the hospital. He took one look at her and ordered a blood test for human parvo. It came out positive. I contacted this same doctor and he ordered a blood test for me, and it too came out positive, with a very high titer even four months later.

    According to both the vet and the MD, the disease is tickborne. The vet pinpointed her infection to visiting a ranch just seven miles upriver from where I live. I was coming off nearly two months in hunting camp up the East Fork. But given the time lapse it was impossible to pinpoint a source.

    It is true that whitetail deer are flush all through the Upper Wind River Valley. There’s a small band living on my place, and they’re all up and down the East Fork and other tributaries of the Wind River. But what’s most interesting is that it hasn’t been here long. No one around Dubois knew what it was and a standard blood test doesn’t include human parvo. My own view is that it’s come into the country with climate warming.

    The tracking north of diseases that don’t belong here is an issue of major concern, not only for public health but for wildlife conservation. There is now a new field called “conservation medicine” to deal with the disease problems caused by human alteration of the environment from deforestation, range destruction, climate change, and other things. See http://www.conservationmedicine.org/.


    1. Chris Harbin Avatar
      Chris Harbin

      Robert, that’s a horrific story. I did not know there was a human parvovirus. I am glad that you are feeling better and I hope you conquer the last vestiges of the virus.

    2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      Thanks. I’m not sure I’m feeling better; my immune system I think is still out of whack. I’ve been on a heavy immune booster diet since then but it does take time. I used to never get sick but now I’m lalways coming down with this or that. Being 55 doesn’t help.

      The reason I brought it up is that there are a lot of people on this site who spend a lot of time outdoors. They should know that this thing is out there and that it’s nasty. You have to specifically ask for it to be tested.

      The veterinarian I mentioned above has since told me that she has discovered that the best treatment for the intracranial swelling is cortisone injections–not in the head, of course.

      Forewarned is forearmed.


  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I spend a lot of time in tick country in the spring and generally find some of them crawling on my clothing after being out in Idaho. I found 16 of them under my shirt collar one evening.
    I was curious as to how they were getting on me and started looking for them on the vegetation. I found some of them on the grass I was walking through. They would hang on to the grass stem with their back two pair of legs and reach out with their long front two pair of legs whenever I put my hand or leg close to them.
    Ticks retain the nutritious red blood cells when they feed, and pump the plasma back into your blood stream along with whatever pathogens they have acquired from previous hosts. The longer they feed, the more they pump back into you.
    Migrating birds have been found to carry Lyme infected ticks to areas that a supposedly Lyme-free. I have a friend in Alberta who was unable to work for two years after being infected with Lyme.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Having recently lived in Lyme Disease Central in the Northeast, I can tell you that it is a three part relationship…the deer, the tick and a specific species of mouse whose name escapes me at the moment. So, unless you have those three, and you still live in a state with a winter cold enough to kill off the ticks, Lyme may not be a big worry for you. Other ticks are worse and do inhabit the Rocky Mountain West, as you know.

      So, wear WHITE socks, check yourself and look for bulls-eye shaped sores if you suspect Lyme. As for your dogs, talk to your vet about the vaccine. It was by no means a sure thing that a vet would recommend the vaccine since its effectiveness is spotty, and it can cause some severe reactions in dogs. Use something like Frontline Plus that doesn’t have contact kill ability, but does act to kill the tick before it regurgitates back into the bite site, causing the infection. If memory serves, that occurs within 10 days of attachment. And have your dog tested annually for all tick borne diseases.

  3. timz Avatar

    Here is an interview with Dr. D. Mech about the Hydatid Tapeworm, from the International Wolf Center.


    1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      I don’t think Mech is one of Bob Fanning’s renowned delta experts.


    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Thanks timz,

      I see my quick research about this was spot on.

  4. Mike Avatar

    The combination of climate change and overlogging has created a giant burst of tick numbers and of course disease. The upper midwest and northeast are by far(it’s not even close) the worst palces for lyme and other tick diseases.

    The primary culprit is the white footed mouse. This little mouse loves unnatural manmade openings of ten acres or less(huge swaths of the nothwoods). It is a chief reservoir of the spirochette. The white tail deer also plays a role. Both are species that love disturbed habtiats. The logging in the nothwoods pushed the moose out, and let the whitetail in.

    I wouldn’t worry about the west as much. First, there’s substantially more old growth. Second, elevation plays a role. I would worry about anything below 4,000 feet, but not so much above that in terms of lyme. The worst culprit is tall gass. People think ticks fall out of trees onto your head, and that can hapen, but not as much as them being in moist tall grass. You are better off in areas of old growth or mature forest. This limits white tail deer and the white footed mouse. Luckily for the most of the Rockies and the Cascades, there is no white footed mouse. There are some however in mountainous areas of New Mexcio and Arizona.

    Ticks love moisture. They love weak winters(climate change) and tall grass. I have extensive experience in the northwoods and in the Rockies doing photgraphy and video(fishing too). I have seen several thousand ticks in Wisconsin and Michigan.

    I have never seen one in Montana or Wyoming.

    1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      Actually, Wyoming is crawling with ticks; and they love sagebrush. They usually come out in April. I got Colorado Tick Fever (another virus) in late April 2000 from a tick bite while taking photos of bighorn sheep grazing in sagebrush. It wasn’t fun either; very high fever.


    2. Save Bears Avatar
      Save Bears

      You want to see ticks in Montana, spend a few days at Lake Como in the Bitterroot Valley, the place is thick with them.

  5. Mike Avatar

    Robert –

    How are you feeling now?

    1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      The main thing I notice is a physical weakness that comes and goes; no pattern that I can detect. Since then I’ve shifted to an almost pure paleolithic diet with Mediterranean overtones. Lots of raw veggies, elk, fresh eggs, and olive oil.


    2. Mike Avatar

      Robert –

      That worries me. When you get a chance, consult this website for a lyme literate doctor in your area:


      This is the cutting edge of tick borne illnesses. It is important to find a lyme literate doctor. If you are still having some sympoms, do not ignore them, no matter how mild. Any lyme literate doc worth his/her salt would be treating you for possible lyme right now with the symptoms you describe.

    3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      Thanks, but I’ve not been diagnosed with lyme disease. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with colorado tick fever, a viral infection, and three years ago I was diagnosed with human parvovirus, another viral infection. I do have a couple of friends hereabouts, both outdoorsmen, who’ve had lyme disease.


  6. Mike Avatar

    Robert – I don’t doubt there are ticks in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I’m sure there are plenty. I’m just saying I’ve seen astonishing difference in tick numbers between the two regions. I tend to stay in forested areas in the summer and fall. Spring is always worse for ticks. Always. The exception is the west coast and November. It explains your problem withe the sagebrush which probably has some nice moisture to it that time of year – something that attracts ticks.

    The primary tick in the Rockies is the Rocky Mountain wood tick.

  7. Mike Avatar

    Robert –

    Better to be cautious and be treated as if you had it when exposed to multiple tick bites – especially if you are still having symptoms, no matter how mild. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t diagnosed with it as most people who end up having severe lyme weren’t diagnosed either(or misdiagnosed).

    There is a very severe shortage of up to date lyme literate doctors who use the latest science and treatments. That forum I linked to will put anyone in touch with lyme literate docs. There are very few in the country.

    I’m not saying you have anything. What I am saying is that if I was in your shoes and still experiencing symptoms months and years out, that would send up a big, huge red flag. Any doctor who knew of your exposure and ongoing symptoms would be treating you for lyme and other coinfections if they were comptent and/or informed. That’s the bottom line.

    Good luck.

  8. Elk275 Avatar

    Mike, when the hot weather of summer comes in the Rockies ticks start to disappear and by July I never see them. In 1904 the Governor of Montana ask my great father, Albert Forest Longway MD, who was a doctor in Great Falls, Montana to conduct a study to try to detirmine if ticks cause Rocky Montana Spotted Fever. According to what I have heard and read he was one of the health workers who made the correlation between ticks and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

    1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      I’m not sure this is the case all over the Rockies. I’ve seen ticks in elk hunting camp here–the Upper Wind River Valley of Wyoming–although not to the degree that one sees them in the spring, but nonetheless they are there. True, it’s only been of late, say, the last five years or so. I do think that climate warming is part of the mix.

      With all the advice, I suppose I’ll check out the possibility of having had lyme disease. What’s the treatment–cipro?


  9. Steve Avatar

    Here in the vicinity of WA’s lookout wolf pack, just today I sent in some blood for testing to see if I’m suffering from an Asian version of Rocky Mt. spotted fever, Thai tick typhus. According to what I have found, this is the Rickettsia bacteria passed in the tick bites, causing what is sometimes called scrub typhus in other parts of Asia. It seems that Rickettsia dna is found in 30% of the ticks of Kao Yai National Park, in which I recently spent considerable time, and donated considerable blood. The bites were a bit nasty and painful, though the ticks were often very small. Healing took a very long time, often with prolonged festering, and in at least once case, a distinct purple swollen node resulted. I’m not sure how this compares to RMSF carrying tick bites in the USA, but it’s the same disease family.

    Interestingly, though I find plenty of ticks on every mule deer or whitetail that I skin in these parts, and usually end up with a few crawling on me, I can’t ever recall being bitten by one. This does seem odd because I do hike around and live in the shrub steppe here in the spring, and I know that they love to bite horses and dogs.

    If this is indeed what I have (and it’s really getting me down), I will try not to give it to the local ticks. They probably wouldn’t like it either. Of course, the symptoms could also be from that unknown parasite-like thing that managed to crawl into my left foot while I was there. Perhaps its reproducing. I am trying to find out just what that is also.

    Be glad you don’t live in the tropics.

    By the way, I’ve noticed an awful lot of what I’d have to call wolf fever going around here in these parts lately too. It’s infectious. Just about every coyote anyone sees anymore morphs in their imagination into one of the resident wolves with 100% certainty.

    There are also lots of white footed mice on this side of the Cascade range.

  10. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    If you don’t mind, please let us know the results of your blood test. I mentioned above the formation of a new field, conservation medicine. Infectious diseases and epidemiology have become important aspects of conservation. We need to know these things.


  11. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Just to add a bit of “color” to all those vampire ticks crawling and piercing, and sucking and puffing up with all your darkened blood, I relate a spring patrol experience in Northern Yellowstone along the Yellowstone River upstream from Gardiner. …Came upon an bull elk carcass with thousands and thousands of ticks on it…so many in fact it was like a moving mass of darkness all over. But then the “impressive” part was all those balls of ticks looking like rudolph the reindeers bulbose nose…..a hundred on each end of each tine…and when you put your hand close to each tine the mass would oblongate towards you, reaching out to you.

    Another time the Mammoth rangers had to rescue a back packer. The guy did a forced march to tell of his hysterical companion whom he left for help all “froze up” with hundreds of ticks on her.

    Just a bit of pleasantry to start the week end for you.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Folks should be warned that during the late winter and spring I have not encountered many places with more ticks than around Gardiner, Montana.

    2. Mike Avatar

      Wow that sounds like something from a horror movie.

  12. Mike Avatar

    Robert – There are a variety of treatments. Some for early on, some for later on, some for chronic patients. By asking for a doctor in that link I gave you, you will be pointed to a lyme literate doctor closest to you. If your insurance won’t allow it, you can talk to other people in the “medical questions” forum on the link I gave you and get some treatment protocols that you can try and convince your regular doctor to do.

    Definitely the smart move if you are still having some symptoms. Better to be safe than sorry. The last thing you would want to do is let anything get into your nervous system.

  13. JimT Avatar

    And..there are no reliable tick repellents, folks…

  14. Hal M Avatar
    Hal M

    Your report is of tremendous value. I’ve been track the ehrlichiosis lone star tick disease which has claimed lives and made quite a few people very sick. The conservation medicine site will help. I’d like to hear of anything other site contributors have to say about ehrlichiosis. Hope you have made a full recovery and you are back in the field!

  15. RG Avatar

    Thanks for all the info.
    I was in Powell, WY, at the fairgrounds last weekend and discovered that I had a tick on Sunday eve. On Wed. afternoon, my temp. rose to over 102 F., and I ended up in the ER in Grand Junction, CO. The blood test was neg. for tick-borne diseases (don’t know exactly what they tested for), so they sent me home with a printed diagnosis sheet for having the flu. The dr. said that the fever was likely unrelated to the bite. (Get real.) I have no rash or other symptoms.

    Tylenol seems to be controlling the fever. It rose to almost 101 yesterday eve, so I’ve been diligently taking the tylenol to keep it down today. Anyone have any additional suggestions? Is this going to go away by itself without antibiotics?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      If this continues, get a doctor’s followup. Influenza is infrequent this time of year. It is doubtful they could have tested for all the possible tick borne diseases. Was the tick merely crawling on you, or was it embedded?

  16. RG Avatar

    It was embedded. There was also a bite mark in a different place and signs that it had been irritated by clothing before I found it (indicated by a trail of small blood stains).

    I have no additional symptoms for the flu–think that they applied that diagnosis because the blood test showed nothing.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll give it until Monday, then stop the tylenol and see if the fever returns.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Was it a hard shelled Rocky Mountain wood tick, a soft tick, or the small deer tick? My guess is the classic Rocky Mountain tick. Right?

  17. RG Avatar

    It was a common brown wood tick.

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This one then?

    If it was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, you would be much sicker by now than just a fever.

    Colorado tick fever is much more common:

    Symptoms of Colorado tick fever start 3 to 6 days after getting the tick bite. A sudden fever continues for 3 days, goes away, then comes back 1 to 3 days later for another few days. Other symptoms include:

    * Excessive sweating
    * Generalized weakness
    * Headache
    * Joint stiffness
    * Nausea and vomiting
    * Occasional rash (may be light-colored)
    * Sensitivity to light ( photophobia)
    * Severe muscle aches
    – – – – –
    Q fever takes 20 days to develop, so that is not likely
    – – – – – –
    Lyme Disease is not common in Wyoming and usually, but not always from the small deer tick
    – – – – –
    It could be a non-flu illness, entirely unrelated to ticks


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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