If you live or plan on traveling in the Northeast or upper Midwest of the U.S., then tick awareness is crucial while engaging in outdoor activities during the warm summer months. Why? Because a bite from an infected deer tick can transmit several tickborne diseases, like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis or babesiosis. This health blurb provides information on just one of these, babesiosis.
What is babesiosis? It’s an infection caused by the Babesia parasite. This parasite infects and attacks your red blood cells, similar to the way the malaria pathogen does. For most, their immune system counters the invasion before any major destruction can occur. During the battle you may experience no symptoms or non specific flu type, such as:
However, should a substantial number of red blood cells be destroyed before the parasite is brought under control, hemolytic anemia can result. This type of anemia can cause jaundice and dark urine symptoms.
Usually babesiosis is a mild health condition, but can become very serious if:
- you are elderly
- have liver or kidney disease
- spleen removed or functions poorly
- weak immune system due to HIV, cancer, lymphoma
A severe case of babesiosis may cause complications involving:
For those with symptoms, babesiosis treatment is an antibiotic and anti-parasite drug combination. Severe cases may require vasopressors, blood transfusions, exchange transfusions, mechanical ventilation or dialysis, which treat the complications. After treatment you’ll likely continue suffering the symptoms of this parasite infection for some weeks.
Prevent all this by using skin cover to ensure ticks have no opportunity to suck your blood.