Cases of babesiosis, transmitted by tick bites, increase over the spring months with the majority of affected people falling ill in June or July. The seasonal rise in this parasitic disease in the United States is likely well underway.
Babesia microti, the species responsible for most cases, is a microscopic protozoan parasite that lives inside red blood cells. While many people are unaware they’ve been infected, others suffer severe and prolonged illness, sometimes ending in death. Babesiosis causes flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headache, fever, poor appetite, and body aches. Over time, as the parasites destroy red blood cells, anemia sets in. Symptomatic cases of babesiosis typically strike older people with an average age of about 70 years.
Most people catch babesiosis from the bite of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis. In the spring, tiny young ticks emerge and can feed on wild animals, pets, and humans. At this stage they are very small and often go unnoticed when they bite but they transmit Babesia microti and other disease-causing organisms. An incubation period of up to two months means that babesia infections acquired in the spring become apparent in the summer months.
Ticks transmit babesiosis in the United States in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, but infected people who have no symptoms can transmit it to others through blood donation. Pregnant women can pass the parasite on to the fetus.
Avoiding tick bites is the best way to prevent babesiosis, along with prompt removal of any tick that is found already attached to the skin. Those who live in places where blacklegged ticks transmit babesiosis should be vigilant about checking for ticks, and watchful for symptoms of infection.
For more information, visit the CDC website
Rosemary Drisdelle is the author of Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests. She teaches clinical parasitology and writes about parasites from Nova Scotia, Canada. Her website is www.rosemarydrisdelle.com
8 thoughts on “Babesiosis cases likely on the rise”
Every state has Babesiosis because every state has ticks and especially black legged ticks. I see black legged ticks in New Mexico EVERY WEEK.
You are killing people by saying it’s only a Northeast problem. You are also partly responsible for tainting our blood supply.
I tested positive on three testing methods of Babesiosis – HIGHLY positive. Now determined to have a 42% mortality rate. Thanks to false information like this, doctors didn’t detect my issues at all in Texas, where I used to live, and I had to go to NY to be seen. Thanks to ignorant misinformation like this I may actually die. I had both Babesia Microti and Babesia Divergens.
Does the name Cattle Fever mean anything to you – That is right – It is rampant in Texas and many places in the US.
I live in central PA, and I have babesiosis and Lyme. No infectious disease doctors here would acknowledge these diseases as possibilities… they all said “babesia isn’t in PA”. I had to buy a microscope and learn how to make giemsa stained thin smears, and proved babesia parasites were in my red blood cells. I went four months feeling like I was on the verge of death before I was able to get treatment from a doc out of state. The malaria treatment started working immediately… within a week I was able to get out of bed and walk around. After 100 days of treatment, I’m feeling much more like myself. My father-in-law also lives in PA and he developed thrombocytopenia 6 years ago. Dozens of specialists couldn’t find a cause. He gets platelet transfusions all the time, and is taking platelet meds that cost the insurance $20,000 per month. While researching my symptoms I discovered babesia can cause thrombocytopenia, so ast week I checked his blood under the microscope. He had very obvious babesia forms in his red cells and extracellular forms as well. His were much easier to find than my own. Babesia is in PA, and probably all over the country. It isn’t a rare disease, just rarely diagnosed and reported. I NEVER would’ve been diagnosed by a doc in PA.
I hurt for you. I am going to ask my doctor about this as I am having problems with my red blood cell count.
These stories are written as stories and not in an informational format. I agree with you, they are a part of the problem a big part.
I have babesia I need a help