- Residents in eight states should know the signs of another tick-borne disease as cases rise, the CDC said.
- Babesiosis is caused by tiny parasites that infect red blood cells and are spread by certain ticks.
- The disease can range from mild illness without symptoms to severe illness with multiple organ failure.
People in eight states should know the signs of the tick-borne disease babesiosis as cases rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Babesiosis cases are on the rise in the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont), and the disease is newly endemic in three of those states (Maine, New Hampshire , and Vermont), according to a CDC report based on data collected between 2011 and 2019 from 10 states.
“Members of the public and health care providers in states where babesiosis is endemic and bordering states should be aware of the clinical signs of babesiosis and risk factors for infection with Babesia,” the CDC said in the report released on Friday.
The latest report comes amid a 25% increase in the number of cases of tick-borne illnesses in the United States, including Lyme disease, the CDC said. According to the CDC, the number of reported cases of babesiosis rose from 40,795 in 2011 to 50,856 in 2019.
Babesiosis is usually transmitted by blacklegged ticks
According to the report, most cases of babesiosis in the United States are caused by tiny parasites spread by blacklegged ticks, called Ixodes scapularis, in northeastern and midwestern states. People can also catch it through contaminated blood transfusions and organ transplants from infected donors. Babies can get it from mothers with babesiosis.
The disease, which was first identified in 1969 on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, can cause mild illness without symptoms to severe illness with multiple organ failure.
Dr. Peter Krause, principal investigator at the Yale School of Public Health, who was not involved in the CDC study, told NBC that the CDC report highlights “an unfortunate step in the emergence of Babesiosis in the United States”.
“More cases mean more disease, and in fact some people are dying,” he said. According to Kruse, the disease has an overall mortality rate of around 1% to 2%.
People who contract the disease from blood transfusions are more likely to die than those who contract it from a tick bite, according to the CDC report.
The severity of an infection also depends on a person’s immunity. For example, the condition is more likely to be life-threatening for immunocompromised people, including the elderly.
People without flu symptoms do not need treatment
People without symptoms usually don’t need treatment, but people with more severe disease can be treated with antimicrobial drugs. Symptoms are often nonspecific and include: fever, muscle or joint pain, nausea, and headache, according to the CDC.
According to a babesiosis study published last year, once the parasite has infected 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 has no symptoms.
There could be babesiosis in states where no cases are 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. Indeed, not all states, such as Pennsylvania, record them, and people without symptoms often go untested. The data also does not reliably reflect where a person caught the disease, such as whether they have been to a state, because cases are reported based on where a person lives.
“People who spend time outdoors in states where babesiosis is endemic should practice tick-bite prevention, including wearing long pants, avoiding undergrowth and tall grass, and using repellents. against ticks,” the CDC said.