Babesiosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 13 April 2021

Table of Contents :

 

  1. What Is Babesiosis?
  2. Symptoms
  3. Diagnosis
  4. Treatment and Prevention

 

What Is Babesiosis?

 

Babesiosis is a rare and potentially fatal infection of the red blood cells transmitted mostly by ticks. It's affected by Babesia parasites, which are microscopic parasites. Babesia microti is the species that most commonly affects humans. When you're attacked by an infected deer tick, they get into your bloodstream.

 

Babesiosis may also be transmitted in the following ways:

 

  • Blood transfusions that have been contaminated
  • A pregnant, infected mother passing it to her baby in the womb or during birth

 

Babesiosis is most common during the summer months. Ticks containing the parasite have been discovered in the following locations:

 

  • Block Island, R.I.
  • Fire Island, Shelter Island, and eastern Long Island, N.Y.
  • Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
  • Nantucket, Masew Jerseys.
  • Coastal areas of N

 

This infection has also been recorded in other states, including:

 

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin

 

There have also been cases recorded in Europe as well.

 

Symptoms

Babesiosis symptoms appear 1 to 8 weeks after contact with the parasite that triggers the disease. Symptoms can go unnoticed at times. If you do, you may come across the following:

 

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating

 

You can also develop a disease called Haemolytic anaemia. Haemolytic anemia is a disease in which the red blood cells die quicker than your body can produce new ones. The following are symptoms of haemolytic anaemia:

 

  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dizziness
  • Heart murmur
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Swelling of your spleen and liver
  • Very pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Yellow skin, eyes, and mouth (jaundice)

 

If you're elderly, don't have a spleen, have a health problem, or take medications that impair the immune system, your symptoms might be worsened.

 

If you have some of these signs, visit the doctor right away to let them know if you've recently travelled. Ticks may be as small as a poppy seed, but you may not realize you've been bitten.

 

Diagnosis

Blood samples would be requested by the doctor to look for symptoms of infection. This involves using a microscope to search for Babesia in the blood. Other blood testing can be ordered to rule out diseases with common effects, such as anaplasmosis or Lyme disease, all of which are transmitted by ticks. It's likely to get Lyme disease and babesiosis at the same time.

 

Treatment and Prevention

You do not require medication if you do not suffer from any symptoms. If you do, your doctor can prescribe atovaquone, a microorganism-killing medication that works in conjunction with the antibiotic azithromycin. Quinine with the antibiotic clindamycin is another combination they might prescribe.

 

The ticks that carry babesiosis usually are required to remain on your body for 36 to 48 hours in order to infect you. Here are a few things you should do to prevent an infection:

 

  • Ticks are likely to be found in overgrown grasses and leaf clusters. Stay away from these areas.
  • If you're in close tick-infested areas, wear long trousers tucked into your socks and a long-sleeved top.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to detect.
  • Use DEET-based bug/insect repellent on your skin and clothes.
  • Check your clothes and pets for ticks before coming indoors.
  • Once indoors, use a full-length or hand-held mirror to scan the whole body for ticks.
  • Remove any ticks you find with pointed tweezers.

Sources

Referenced on 9.4.2021

  1. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/babesiosis-blood-infection 
  2. CDC: “Babesiosis," “Babesiosis FAQs," “Babesiosis Prevent & Control."
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Hemolytic Anemia
  4. New York State Department of Health: “Babesiosis."

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