Rare tickborne illness cases popping up in Austin area

It's called tick-borne relapsing fever, and it's come to Central Texas.

“We've had several cases of this tick born relapsing fever,” said Dr. Philip Huang, medical director for Austin Public Health.

Huang says they did see a situation similar to this last year in March. He says three people were even hospitalized. The symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, and joint pain.

“There was a group of people visiting, 22 people and 11 of them developed illness,” said Huang.

Carriers of this disease are not your typical ticks that latch on and stay on your body.

“It's by being bitten by these soft ticks. These ticks are different from hard ticks. They feed really quickly and jump off after a minute. These ticks can last ten years they can live a long time, if they're infected they can infect for quite some time,” said Huang.

They live in nests of many small animals, and are often found where rodents are living. The caves in the Austin area are an ideal location. “The conditions are right for the ticks and animals they are feeding on to be around those caves,” said Huang.

Health officials say one way you can protect yourself is put on insect repellent before you go out on a hike, just as if you were protecting yourself from mosquitoes. 

He said the disease can last for a few days, then come back and recur. The good news is, this bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. If you are experiencing the symptoms, call your doctor.