Babesiosis is a malaria-like disease caused by microscopic Babesia parasites that are transmitted through a tick bite.
Most common during the warmer months, the disease primarily occurs in New England, New York State, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts in areas with woods, brush or grass. Babesiosis occurs primarily in animals but the incidence of human cases is on the rise. Though the disease can be asymptomatic in many people, babesiosis can attack the red blood cells and lead to hemolytic anemia, a life-threatening medical condition.
Headache and body aches
Loss of appetite
Complications from babesiosis can include low and unstable blood pressure, hemolytic anemia, low platelet count, blood clots and bleeding, malfunction of vital organs and even death.
Diagnosis and treatment
A babesiosis diagnosis can be confirmed by a blood test. Treatment for babesiosis includes a seven to 10 day round of malarial medications and antibiotics. For more severe cases, other measures may be necessary, including medications for fever and low blood pressure, blood transfusion, mechanical ventilation (for difficulty breathing), and dialysis. If you suspect or know you’ve been bitten by a tick and experience nonspecific flu-like symptoms, get in to see your doctor immediately.
The best way to prevent getting babesiosis is by avoiding tick-infested areas. If you plan to hike or walk through areas with woods, brush and grass, take precautions to keep ticks off of your skin.
You can reduce your risk of a tick bite by:
Walking on cleared trails away from vegetation.
Using an insect repellant on exposed skin and clothing.
Wearing light colored long pants, long sleeved shirts, and high boots when hiking or in tall grass.
Tucking pant cuffs into socks or high boots.
Checking your clothing and pets during and after outdoor activities.
Staying vigilant in avoiding and checking for ticks can reduce your risk of babesiosis and any other tick-borne diseases.