Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Evaluating the risk of tick-borne relapsing fever among occupational cavers - Austin, TX, 2017.

Abstract

Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is a potentially serious spirochetal infection caused by certain species of Borrelia and acquired through the bite of Ornithodoros ticks. In 2017, Austin Public Health, Austin, TX, identified five cases of febrile illness among employees who worked in caves. A cross-sectional serosurvey and interview were conducted for 44 employees at eight organizations that conduct cave-related work. Antibodies against TBRF-causing Borrelia were detected in the serum of five participants, four of whom reported recent illness. Seropositive employees entered significantly more caves (Median 25 [SD: 15] versus Median 4 [SD: 16], p=0.04) than seronegative employees. Six caves were entered more frequently by seropositive employees posing a potentially high risk. Several of these caves were in public use areas and were opened for tours. Education of area healthcare providers about TBRF and prevention recommendations for cavers and the public are advised.