Ticks are known to carry a variety of diseases, and one of the newest ones is babesiosis. This rare tick-borne disease is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and is spread by certain ticks. In the United States, transmission is mainly through black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks.
The symptoms of babesiosis can vary from person to person, but they typically include fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, nausea and loss of appetite. In some cases, people may experience jaundice or anemia due to the destruction of red blood cells. If left untreated, babesiosis can be fatal in some cases.
Diagnosis for babesiosis can be difficult because the symptoms are similar to other illnesses such as Lyme disease or malaria. It’s important to see a doctor if you think you have been bitten by a tick or if you have any of the symptoms listed above. Your doctor will likely order a blood test to check for antibodies against Babesia microti, which is the parasite that causes babesiosis.
Treatment for babesiosis usually involves antibiotics such as azithromycin or clindamycin combined with either quinine or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone). The length of treatment depends on how severe your infection is and how quickly your body responds to treatment. In some cases hospitalization may be necessary in order to receive intravenous antibiotics and fluids.
It’s important to take steps to protect yourself from being bitten by ticks when spending time outdoors in areas where they are common. Wear long pants and long sleeves when possible and use insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin on clothing and gear. Check yourself for ticks after spending time outside and remove them promptly if found using tweezers or a tick removal tool.
Babesiosis is still relatively new so it’s important to stay informed about this emerging tick-borne disease in order to protect yourself from becoming infected with it. If you think you may have been exposed or have any symptoms associated with it, seek medical attention right away so that you can get proper diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.