Little creatures have woken up to wreak havoc on people as spring begins.
Blacklegged ticks are tiny organisms that, in addition to Lyme disease, can result in a wide range of other health problems. Babesiosis is a disease spread by ticks that primarily affects individuals in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on March 17, that babesiosis cases increased significantly from 2011 to 2019.
While some people have no symptoms after contracting babesiosis, the most common symptoms include fever and muscle and joint pain. It can be fatal if people with compromised immune systems or previous kidney or liver disease contract it.
Here’s a look at what we know:
States with reported cases of babesiosis
The CDC assessed the increase in babesiosis across 10 states. States that experienced the largest change in cases per 100,000 of their populations include Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, which were not previously considered to have endemic babesiosis.
States with the highest increase in babesiosis cases by year
The other states included in the study, which did have endemic babesiosis, were Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Of the 16,456 cases of babesiosis reported to the CDC in that time period, 98% of the cases came from those 10 states.
Other states cases included in the study by year
All tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, infected 50,856 people in 2019, a 25% increase from 2011.
What causes babesiosis?
It’s caused by the bite of a blacklegged tick or deer tick, which carry Babesia microti – microscopic parasites that infect human red blood cells. Deer ticks also transmit Lyme disease as well as two other lesser-known bacterial diseases: anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis.
Babesiosis cases can occur through blood transfusions, organ transplants, or childbirth when a mother is infected.
What are the symptoms of babesiosis?
Some people have no symptoms, while others may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever or muscle and joint pain. In severe cases, they can develop organ failure, blood clots, or unstable blood pressure.
Can babesiosis be treated?
Babesiosis can be treated using antibiotics such as azithromycin and atovaquone.
People with a compromised immune system or those without a spleen can be at risk for more severe cases, even death, according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
How to prevent tick bites
If heading outside, be sure to take precautions if you know you’re going to be where ticks live, such as in a park, camping or the backyard. Ticks are year-round pests, but are most active during warmer months, from April to September.
Before you go outdoors:
Found a tick? Don’t panic.
If you are returning indoors after outside activities, it’s a good idea to check your clothes and body for ticks. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed. For a disease to be transmitted, a tick must remain connected to its host for about 24 to 36 hours. By removing the tick promptly, you can reduce the chance of becoming infected. Here are some tips on how to deal with a tick:
As a precaution, take a picture of the tick to document its species type. That way, you will be ready if you need treatment later on.
Keep track of your symptoms
Consult your doctor if you experience a rash or temperature within a few weeks of tick removal. Be sure to tell your doctor where you most likely got the tick, when it bit you and when the symptoms started occurring.
Contributing: Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY