Babesiosis – Why is it a (Mostly) White Man’s Disease?

Every year, hundreds of people in America are infected with babesiosis, a tick-borne infection that causes malaria-like symptoms. For some reason, older white men have the highest rates of infection.

In one study, 76.4% of the infected patients were men, most of whom were in their 50’s. So is the babesiosis-carrying tick drawn to this demographic for a specific reason, or is there a simpler explanation? For example, there may be more white men than white women in regions where these ticks thrive.

Most cases of babesiosis in America are diagnosed in the Northeast (see map below), and while the majority of inhabitants are white (68.2%), the majority isn’t made up of men. Women actually outnumber men in every age group above 45.
This leads many, including Mark Walderhaug, associate director for risk assessment at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to believe that more men than women spend time outdoors–hunting, hiking, fishing–and are thus more susceptible to being infected.

There’s also the opinion that while most cases are diagnosed in the northeast, it could be because professionals look for tick borne illnesses more often there compared to other states. What do you think? Do you think men spend significantly more time outdoors than women and are thus more susceptible to contracting a tick-borne illness or is it perhaps something more complex?

While this disease is popular among white men, people of both sexes and all races and ages in tick-prone areas, should be cautious. Click here to find out more from the CDC about the prevelance of tick-borne illnesses.

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