Babesiosis & Ticks in New England

Babesiosis is a disease caused by microscopic parasites that infect the red blood cells of the victim. It is passed to humans primarily through the bite of the black-legged tick, otherwise known as the deer tick. The main host animal of the black-legged tick is the white-tailed deer, which are prevalent throughout many regions of the country. For those who live, work, or otherwise spend a great deal of time in grassy outdoor areas, the chance of coming into contact with black-legged ticks is increased. Babesiosis is prevalent throughout all of New England.

Symptoms of Babesiosis

Transmitted mainly by deer tick nymphs, babeiosis is most common during the warmer months of the year when the nymphal stage of development tends to occur. Babesiosis symptoms range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the person affected. Symptoms are usually displayed within a week or two of being bitten, though the severity of the symptoms depends on mitigating factors. While most people experience signs such as

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

The elderly and those with weakened immune systems may face more serious effects including

  • Jaundice
  • Darkened urine
  • Even hemolytic anemia (loss of red blood cells).

Treatment of Babesiosis

In some cases, people with babesiosis may not feel any symptoms, let alone remember being bitten by a deer tick. Doctors must administer a specialized blood test to confirm suspected cases of the disease. For patients with previously existing health issues, complications may become severe enough to result in unstable blood pressure, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), organ failure, and even death.

Preventing Babesiosis

To reduce the chances of encountering a deer tick and contracting babesiosis, stick to cleared trails when walking outdoors, wear light-colored clothing, apply repellents to both skin and clothes, and minimize the amount of exposed skin by tucking pant legs inside shoes or boots. Perform tick checks upon returning from outdoor excursions, and remove any found ticks from clothing and pets before reentering the home.

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