Thursday, August 15, 2013

Emerging Tick-borne Disease: Babesiosis

Babesiosis is a parasitic infection transmitted by deer ticks, the same tick that carries Lyme disease. Babesiosis is an emerging infection in Maine with 17 cases being reported between January and mid-August, compared to a total of 10 cases in 2012. Most infections occur in the summer and fall months, so the number of 2013 cases is expected to rise.

So far, cases have been reported this year in Cumberland, Knox, and York counties.

Common symptoms include: extreme fatigue, aches, fever, chills, sweating, dark urine, and possibly anemia. People with babesiosis may experience no symtpoms at all. Babesiosis is treatable, and people who are infected and do not have underlying conditions generally make a full recovery. 

If you are bitten by a tick:
  • Remove the tick properly, ideally using tweezers or a tick spoon.
  • Clean the area around the bite, and watch for symptoms for 30 days.
  • Have your health care provider identify the tick and the engorgement level, or amount of time attached.  Tick identification is available through the Maine Medical Center Research Institute 
  • Testing of the tick is not routinely recommended.

If babesiosis is suspected: Your health care provider should test you. If you have babesiosis, you should be treated with medicine for a week to 10 days.

Remember that there are other diseases carried by ticks in Maine, including anaplasmosis and Lyme disease. Symptoms of anaplasmosis include: fever, headache, malaise, and body aches.  The most common early symptom of Lyme disease is an expanding red rash that occurs at the site of the tick bite within 3-30 days after being bitten.  Fever, joint and muscle pains may also occur.  People can get infected with anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and/or Lyme disease at the same time.

Last year, health care providers reported 52 cases of anaplasmosis in Maine, compared to 45 cases so far this year.  In 2012, providers reported 1,111 cases of Lyme disease in Maine, so far 489 cases have been reported in 2013.

Additional information: