Reporting Joe Shortsleeve
BOSTON (CBS) – A dangerous new tick-borne illness is now being diagnosed in Massachusetts.
There’s no way Jean Landreville, a retired firefighter, could be outside playing with his dog Cody like he does these days.
He remembers last summer when he called his wife because he actually thought he might be dying. “I got such a tremendous headache and started getting chest pains and I was really getting hot, so I called her up and said ‘Karen, I am going to the hospital’, and she said, ‘Wait for me to come home,’ and I said, ‘No, I can’t wait.’”
Landreville spent a couple of days in the hospital as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. “At first they thought it was Lyme disease, but we couldn’t find a tick bite or anything.” Blood tests didn’t help either. “It was coming back negative, everything negative for Lyme disease, they were all just scratching their heads.”
Landreville clearly remembered golfing, and going into the woods to retrieve a ball. Doctors were very suspicious a tick might somehow still be involved.
Dr. Philip Molloy, a rheumatologist at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, believes Borrelia Miyamotoi is an emerging infectious disease. It is a cork screw bacteria transmitted to humans from ticks.
“It is either new, or newly recognized. We don’t have the whole story. The first 4-5 patients were hospitalized, were very sick,” said Dr. Molloy.
Dr. Molloy helped discover this pathogen and published his work in the New England Journal of Medicine. Landreville was one of the first patients in the country to be identified.
“You just get sick. There is no rash. What people are familiar with in looking for Lyme disease. There is no know rash with this,” added Dr. Molloy. “We have identified about 10 more, but we are just starting to look for it, so I don’t know how much is out there.”
Jordan Hospital has started testing routinely for Borrelia Miyamotoi, as well as the three most common tick infections. WBZ has learned they diagnosed their first patient a few weeks ago.
“It’s significant for two reasons,” said Dr. Molloy. “People now know what they have and they can be treated for the right disease.”
This disease is marked by higher fevers than the ones associated with Lyme disease. As of now, doctors are using strong antibiotics to treat it.
Landreville has learned something from his ordeal. “If there is a ball that goes off into the woods, I just let it be.”