Babesiosis Is on the Rise: Another Reason to Watch Out for Ticks

Babesiosis, an infection of red blood cells, continues to affect a growing number of people. In the Lower Hudson Valley of New York, perhaps the most vulnerable area to babesiosis, the rate of tick-bourne infection has increased twenty fold since it was first discovered a decade ago.

While babesiosis is most commonly contracted through blood transfusions or tick bites, some babies acquire babesiosis prenatally. Alarmingly, in the Lower Hudson Valley, babesiosis cases have increased by nearly 50 percent every year since 2001.

63 percent of babesiosis patients were more susceptible to their infection due to weakened immune systems from such factors as age, cancer, spleen removal, or AIDS. Hospital stays from babesiosis can last anywhere from a few days to more than two months depending on the severity. Fortunately, just one course of antimicrobial therapy was enough to treat the disease in most of the cases, with prolonged therapy being necessary in the most extreme cases.

Experts urge that doctors take notice of this babesiosis influx. Not only will blood used in transfusions need to be checked to determine whether it is contaminated with babesiosis, but doctors should look out for the coexistence of other tick-bourne diseases like Lyme disease. Physicians should also test for babesiosis in patients who experience fever and hemolytic anemia, as they may be signs of this more serious condition.

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