Babesiosis tick-borne disease symptoms, treatment as cases increase: CDC

Babesiosis is caused by tiny parasites that infect red blood cells and are spread by certain ticks.

  • People in eight states should be aware of signs of another tick-borne disease as cases increase, the CDC said.
  • Babesiosis is caused by tiny parasites that infect red blood cells and are spread by certain ticks.
  • The disease can cause from a mild asymptomatic disease to a severe disease with multiple organ failure.

People in eight states should be aware of the signs of tick-borne babesiosis as cases increase, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

Babesiosis cases are increasing in the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont), and the disease is recently endemic in three of these states (Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont), according to a CDC report. which is based on data collected from 10 states between 2011 and 2019.

“Members of the public and health care providers in states with endemic babesiosis and bordering states should be aware of the clinical signs of babesiosis and risk factors for Babesia infection,” the CDC said in a report released Friday.

The CDC said the latest report comes after a 25 percent increase in the number of cases of tick-borne diseases in the United States, including Lyme disease. According to the CDC, the number of reported cases of babesiosis increased from 40,795 in 2011 to 50,856 in 2019.

Babesiosis is usually spread by black-legged ticks

According to the report, most cases of babesiosis in the United States have been caused by tiny parasites carried by black-legged ticks, called Ixodes scapularis, in northeastern and midwestern states. People can also get it from contaminated blood transfusions and organ transplants from infected donors. Babies can get it from mothers who have babesiosis.

First identified in 1969 on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, the disease can range from mild asymptomatic disease to severe disease with multiple organ failure.

Dr. Peter Krause, a senior researcher at the Yale School of Public Health who was not involved in the CDC study, told NBC that the CDC report highlights “an unfortunate milestone in the emergence of babesiosis in the United States.”

“More cases means more disease, and actually some people die,” he said. According to Kruse, the general mortality rate of the disease is about 1–2 percent.

People who get the disease from blood transfusions are more likely to die than those who get it from a tick bite, the CDC report said.

The severity of the inflammation also depends on the person’s resistance. For example, the condition is more likely to be life-threatening in those who are immunocompromised, including the elderly.

People without flu-like symptoms do not need treatment

The symptoms usually do not require treatment, but more severely affected patients can be treated with antimicrobials. Symptoms are often nonspecific and include: fever, muscle or joint pain, nausea and headache, according to the CDC.

According to a review of babesiosis published last year, after the parasite infects a person, it can take one to six weeks for symptoms to appear, and about 20% of adults and half of children who contract the disease do not develop symptoms.

Babesiosis may occur in states where no cases have been reported

The CDC said 37 states reported a total of 16,456 cases between 2011 and 2019, including 16,174 (98.2%) from the 10 states included in the analysis.

The CDC said the number of cases could be higher. That’s because not all states, like Pennsylvania, record them, and asymptomatic people often don’t get tested. The data also does not reliably reflect where a person contracted the disease, for example if they have traveled to a state, because cases are reported by the person’s place of residence.

“People who spend time outdoors in states where babesiosis is endemic should practice tick bite prevention, including wearing long pants, avoiding underbrush and tall grass, and using tick repellants,” the CDC said.

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