In a report released on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that babesiosis, a tick-borne disease that can be fatal in a small number of cases, is becoming more prevalent in the Northeast.
Eight of the 10 states that reported cases of babesiosis between 2011 and 2019 saw an increase, while only two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin, saw a decrease.
Additionally, three brand-new states are now considered to be babesiosis endemic: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine In the past, only Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin were thought to have the disease.
Megan Swanson, a co-author of the report who works as an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, stated, “Nine years of data show [an] increase in tickborne disease in parts of the U.S. that previously saw few cases.”
Babesiosis is characterized by fever, chills, sweats, headaches, body aches, nausea, fatigue, and pain in the muscles and joints. According to Dr. Peter Krause, a senior research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not a part of the CDC study, the disease has an overall fatality rate of between one and two percent.
Asymptomatic cases account for up to 50% of pediatric and 20% of adult cases. Low blood platelet counts, kidney failure, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, in which fluid builds up in the lungs, are the severe outcomes that are most likely to occur in older or immunocompromised individuals.
According to Krause, the report focuses on “an unfortunate milestone in the emergence of babesiosis in the United States.” More cases indicate more illness, and some actually die.
Babesiosis can be more severe than Lyme disease. Deer ticks, whose bites can transmit Babesia parasites that infect red blood cells, are the primary source of babesiosis in humans.
From late May to early September, the majority of transmission occurs. Researchers believe that ticks will find more favorable conditions as a result of longer periods of humidity brought on by climate change.
Edouard Vannier, an assistant professor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston who studies babesiosis but was not involved in the report, stated, “The ticks are surviving better in the winter, and so the next spring, you have more ticks to bite more people.” Vannier was not involved in the report.
From 2011 to 2019, the new data indicate that the number of babesiosis cases increased 17-fold in Vermont and 34-fold in Maine.
Babesiosis and Lyme disease, another tick-borne illness that causes fever and muscle aches, can sometimes be confused. Krause stated that there is not an obvious babesiosis symptom, in contrast to the characteristic of Lyme disease, which is a rash at the location of the tick bite. Typically, a blood test is used to diagnose it.
Krause stated, “Sometimes the patient will have felt just exhausted and not quite right, maybe a low-grade temperature for a week or two, and then all of a sudden they get worse.” In most cases, Lyme is not like that; you get it and then, boom, you get the rash and other symptoms.
Despite the fact that Lyme is much more prevalent, babesiosis tends to be more severe than Lyme disease. From 2011 to 2019, the CDC recorded approximately 16,500 total cases of babesiosis and approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease.
Vannier stated that people can acquire both diseases simultaneously. He estimated that Lyme disease is present in half of Babesiosis patients.
An increase in diseases spread by ticks Scientists discovered the first human case of babesiosis in the United States in 1969. Between 2011 and 2019, its prevalence increased at the same rate as the overall number of tick-borne diseases, which increased by 25%. From 1999 to 2019, affirmed instances of Lyme sickness rose by 44%.
The trend is attributed by researchers to a few things. Ticks have more opportunities to eat and reproduce as a result of increased deer populations, for instance. Additionally, a growing number of people are building homes and traveling to forested areas.
Ticks thrive in warm, humid environments, and rising global temperatures have led to longer summers and shorter winters.
Krause also mentioned that older people now make up a larger portion of the population and that they are more likely to be diagnosed with severe babesiosis because they are more susceptible to it.
He stated that “it tends to be the more severe cases, the ones that get into the hospital, are the ones that are reported.”
The CDC report suggested that individuals who invest energy outside in states where babesiosis is endemic wear long jeans, use tick repellant and stay away from underbrush and long grass.
Due to the fact that not all physicians report cases to state health departments and not all states report cases to the CDC, researchers stated that babesiosis is probably more common than the CDC count suggests.
Leave a Comment