According to a story from The Hill, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report which states that rates of tick-borne disease have increased 25% since 2011. Part of this change includes an increase in rates of babesiosis, which appears to be spreading in the Northeast region of the country. The CDC highlights an increase in cases of the illness in eight different states: Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Massachusetts.
Babesiosis, sometimes called Texas fever or piroplasmosis, is an infectious, parasitic disease that resembles malaria. The disease is most commonly transmitted via a bite from a tick. The infection is the result of the transmission of a eukaryotic parasite of the genus Theileria or Babesia. Babesiosis can also be transmitted from a blood transfusion of an infected person and congenitally, from a mother with the infection to her baby. The disease is most prevalent in the Midwest and Northeast of the US and in certain areas of Europe. It generally occurs during the warmer months of the year. It can present with other tick born infections, such as Lyme disease. Babesiosis does not always cause symptoms, but when they occur, they typically include fatigue, fever, chills, and headache. However, other symptoms are possible. A course of antimicrobials and antibiotics are used to treat the infection, typically a combination of azithromycin and atovaquone. Treatment of asymptomatic carriers is recommended if the microbe is still detected after three months. To learn more about babesiosis, click here.
The disease is considered by the CDC to be endemic to many of the states listed previously, as well as Wisconsin and Minnesota. Babesiosis is most likely to be transmitted by the black-legged tick or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While it’s not totally clear why cases of the disease appear to be increasing, Goudarz Molaei, a scientist from Yale University, said that climate change could be a contributing factor as winters get shorter in duration. This means that ticks are active for a greater part of the year than they were in the past and are likely seeing an increase in population.
The best way to prevent infection with babesiosis or other tick-borne illnesses is to avoid areas with tall grass or heavy weeds during warm weather. If you do venture into such areas, wearing long pants and sleeves, using tick repellent, and thoroughly checking both yourself and pets for ticks afterwards is recommended.