The Week (US)

Another tick-borne disease


A growing number of Americans are testing

positive for babesiosis, a sometimes fatal tick-borne disease that attacks red blood cells. Some 2,000 babesiosis infections are recorded in the U.S. each year, up from 1,126 in 2011. But the true number of cases may be far higher, reports The Washington Post, because babesiosis is hard to diagnose. Many infected people are asymptomat­ic, but others have flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, sweats, aches, and nausea that can develop weeks or months later. Unlike Lyme, another disease spread by ticks, it causes no tell-tale rash. Babesiosis is easily treatable if diagnosed quickly. But if it isn’t, and the patient has a weakened immune system, the infection can be deadly. Those at most risk include the elderly and people with cancer, AIDS, or other immunocomp­romised conditions. Peter Krause, from the Yale School of Public Health, says the death rate among these patients is “as high as 20 percent.” Most babesiosis cases are in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, but the disease is starting to appear elsewhere. Health officials say the best protection is to always check for deer ticks after walking in long grass.

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