Cases of tick-borne babesiosis are on the rise in the northeastern United States, the CDC warns. Here’s what you need to know

Tick-borne diseases are on the rise in the northeastern United States, jumping 25 percent from 2011 to 2019. One in particular has become endemic to three new states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday. USA.

Cases of babesiosis – a potentially fatal condition caused by microscopic parasites carried by black-legged ticks – have skyrocketed. Cases increased by a staggering 1,602 percent in Vermont, 1,422 percent in Maine and 3,272 percent in New Hampshire during that period, according to CDC data.

Historically, babesiosis was not considered endemic in these states. But it is now, says a report by the federal health agency, which urges health workers to raise awareness of the disease, how to recognize it and how to prevent it.

What is babesiosis?

It is a disease caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. These parasites are usually carried by ticks, white-footed mice and other small mammals, according to the CDC.

What are the symptoms of babesiosis?

The disease can cause a wide range of ailments, from no symptoms to death. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • a fever
  • muscle and joint pain
  • headache

More serious symptoms may include:

  • kidney failure
  • low number of platelets in the blood
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome, in which blood oxygen levels fall dangerously low

How can someone catch babesiosis?

Babesiosis is usually spread by black-legged or deer ticks – especially young ticks in the nymph stage. Nymphs are usually found in spring and summer in areas with woods, shrubs, or grass. Some nymphs are as small as a poppy seed, so you may not know you’ve been bitten. That’s why it’s important to check for ticks daily if you’ve visited a high-risk area.

It is also possible to contract babesiosis through an infusion of contaminated blood or through childbirth (a mother can pass it on to her child).

Who is most at risk of getting seriously ill from babesiosis?

People at high risk of severe illness and death include:

  • the immunocompromised (perhaps due to cancer or AIDS)
  • those who do not have a spleen
  • people with serious health problems such as liver or kidney disease
  • the adults

In what conditions am I most likely to catch babesiosis?

Until now, babesiosis was considered endemic in only seven states, according to the CDC:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • new York
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin

Previous studies have noted increased reports of babesiosis in certain areas of the U.S., including New York, from 2011 to 2015. Cases reported by the state to the CDC increased nearly 60 percent from 2011 to 2019, according to federal health data. What’s more, New York reported the highest number of cases among all states reporting during that time period.

How can I prevent babesiosis?

People spending time outdoors in states where babesiosis is endemic — and bordering states — should do the following, according to the CDC:

  • Avoid places infested with ticks.
  • Wear long pants.
  • Stay away from bushes and long grass.
  • Use tick repellent.
  • Check daily for ticks.

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