Babesiosis (patient information)
For the WikiDoc page for this topic, click here
Babesiosis On the Web
Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Shantanu Srivatsa, Hardik Patel, M.D.
Babesiosis is a tickborne disease that can be found worldwide. Most cases of the disease have been reported in the coastal areas of the northeastern United States. Because many people with babesiosis have mild or no symptoms, it’s difficult for health experts to estimate how many people in this country have been infected. People with babesiosis can be infected with another tickborne disease, such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, or anaplasmosis, at the same time.
What are the symptoms of Babesiosis?
Most people with babesiosis do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they will usually appear 1 to 4 weeks after you have been infected with the parasite. Even with treatment, you may be sick for several weeks. Symptoms include:
What causes Babesiosis?
In the United States, babesiosis usually is caused by a parasite called Babesii microti. The parasite attacks red blood cells in much the same way as the parasite that causes malaria. When a Babesia-infected tick bites a person, it introduces parasites that may cause symptoms of the disease.
Who is at highest risk?
Most cases of the disease have been reported in the coastal areas of the northeastern United States.
Babesiosis is easy to diagnose but only if it is suspected. It will not show up on any routine tests. It must be suspected when a persons with exposure in an endemic area develops persistent fevers and hemolytic anemia. Babesiosis can be diagnosed by direct examination of the blood, with serology, or with PCR-based tests. Other diagnostic findings include decreased numbers of red blood cells and platelets on complete blood count.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Common symptoms that indicate infection include:
- Neck stiffness
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
(Physical signs gradually progress and have presented themselves to be non-specific.)
Severe Progression will display the following symptoms:
- Rash (similar to erythema chronicum migrans)
- Pharyngeal erythema
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
If you have babesiosis, your healthcare provider will treat it with an antibiotic combined with an anti-parasite medicine. Even with treatment, you may continue to have the disease for as long as 2 months. People with severe cases of the disease may need an exchange transfusion. This procedure involves gradually withdrawing a person’s blood while replacing it with fresh donor blood or plasma.
Where to find medical care for Babesiosis
Directions to Hospitals Treating Babesiosis
To help prevent babesiosis, you should avoid wooded areas, tall grass, and brush where there may be ticks, particularly from May through September when ticks are most active. If you do walk or hike in these areas, be sure to
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Tuck your pants legs into your socks so ticks can’t get inside your pants.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and tuck it inside your pants.
- Apply an insecticide containing permethrin to your clothes. Note, permethrin should be applied only to clothes (e.g., pants bottoms, socks, shirt sleeves). The effects will last several days.
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET to your skin. Because DEET lasts only a few hours, you may need to reapply it.
- Look for ticks on your body, including in your scalp, after returning from a walk or hike.
- Check children and pets for ticks.
Generally, an infected tick has to be on your body for at least 24 hours before it passes on the parasite to you via a bite.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
The spectrum of disease manifestation is broad, ranging from a silent infection to a fulminant, malaria-like disease, resulting in severe hemolysis and occasionally in death.
Babesiosis can be a very severe illness with complications including:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Heart problems
- Low blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Severe breathing problems
- ↑ Babesiosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/babesiosis/disease.htmlAccessed December 8, 2015.