Entries in Babesiosis (3)


CDC: Tick-Borne Babesiosis a Major Blood Transfusion Threat

Keith Brofsky/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While bites from deer ticks are usually to blame for cases of babesiosis -- a potentially fatal parasitic illness that mimics malaria -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified at least 159 cases of the disease transmitted through blood transfusions.

In new research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers identified transmission-associated cases of babesiosis between 1979 and 2009.  More than 75 percent of the cases occurred during 2000 and 2009, and while 87 percent of cases were found in the seven states where babesiosis is most common, there were also cases in 15 other states.

“The risk for transfusion-associated Babesia [the parasite that causes the disease] infection may be increasing,” the authors wrote.  “Cases have occurred year-round and have been seen in states where Babesia species are not endemic.”

While most people infected with babesiosis have no symptoms, others may experience fatigue, anemia, jaundice and other symptoms.  It can sometimes be fatal, especially in the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Babesiosis is the most common disease transmitted through blood transfusions.

A history of babesiosis will exclude someone from donating blood, but signs of infection may not show up right away so a person may not know he or she is ill.  So far, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any screening test for the presence of Babesia.

The researchers believe the transfusion-associated cases uncovered during their research are only a fraction of the number that may actually have occurred.

“The extent to which cases were not detected, investigated, or reported (to the CDC, to other public health authorities, or in publications) is unknown,” the authors wrote.  “Donor-screening strategies that mitigate the risk for transfusion transmission are needed.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Babesiosis: Backyard Killer Mimics Malaria and Is on Rise

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Babesiosis, a potentially deadly tick-borne illness that mimics malaria, is on the rise in the suburbs north of New York City, according to a paper published in the May issue of the Emerging Infection Disease Journal.

The disease has also spiked in coastal Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Long Island.  At least 1,000 cases have been reported, mostly in the Northeast and the upper Midwest, and for those who are immune-compromised, it can be fatal.

And it's not a new malady, according to Dr. Gary Wormser, chief of infectious diseases at New York Medical College and co-author of the paper, who says "one of the earliest reports of this condition is in the Bible and the Plagues of Ten that were imposed on the evil pharaoh of Egypt."

Six cases first appeared in the Lower Hudson Valley in 2001 and by 2008, there were 119 cases, according to the paper, a 20-fold increase.

Most people weather the disease with virtually no symptoms or after effects -- which is precisely why public health officials are worried.  Babesiosis can go undetected in the blood supply -- putting those who are sickest at risk -- and there is no widely used screening test.  Of those who are hospitalized for babesiosis, one in 20 dies, according to Wormser.

The disease is caused by the parasite babesea microti, which invades and destroys the body's red blood cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  An estimated 1,000 cases are reported each year, but experts say many more go undiagnosed.

Those with HIV/AIDS, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and the elderly are also at risk for the more virulent form of babesiosis.  People who have had their spleen removed because trauma or cancer, are also more susceptible.

Experts speculate that, like Lyme disease, babesiosis has spiked because of the surge in the deer population in residential areas.

Because both diseases are carried by the deer tick, some get Lyme disease and babesiosis simultaneously, which can make a correct diagnosis even more difficult.  Those who do experience symptoms report a mild to moderate flu-like illness that can last just days or up to six months.

Those who donate blood tend to be robust and without symptoms, and can therefore pass transmit the disease.

Babesiosis is the most frequently reported infection transmitted through blood transfusions and has caused at least 12 deaths nationwide in the last decade.  There were six deaths in New York City alone in 2009.

Currently the only way to screen is to use a questionnaire and ask blood donors if they are infected.

Rhode Island, which has seen the tick-borne disease since 1999, is the first state to try an experimental test after several infants developed babesiosis following blood transfusions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Five Ways to Prevent Tick-Borne Diseases as Tick Season Begins

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It is tick season in many parts of the country right now, and the blood-sucking parasite is not just a nuisance, it can also pass along potentially fatal diseases like Lyme disease and the lesser-known babesiosis.

The exact same tiny black-legged deer tick that can transmit Lyme disease is also responsible for a rare but fast-growing and perhaps more dangerous disease called babesiosis. Babesiosis, which infects and destroys red blood cells, can be fatal 10 percent to 20 percent of the time in people with already weakened immune systems.

"People who lack a spleen, people who have cancer, people who have HIV, people who are immunosuppressed, on immunosuppressive drugs [are most vulnerable]," said Dr. Peter Krause of Hartford, Conn.

The disease has been seen most commonly in parts of the Northeast and upper Midwest, and usually peaks during the warm months from April to September, when ticks are most prevalent.

Like Lyme disease, the tick has to have dug into the skin and fed for hours before it can transmit babesiosis. Unlike Lyme disease, babesiosis is easy to miss since it does not leave a tell-tale skin rash like most forms of Lyme disease.

If caught early, babesiosis is easily treated. Symptoms for the otherwise healthy are limited to chills and head and body aches. But if it is ignored or unnoticed by those with immune problems, the disease can be fatal.

The National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives these tips on the best way to prevent these diseases and remove the ticks:

Prevent Tick Bites: Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin, wear light-colored protective clothing and tuck your pant legs into your socks.

Check for Ticks: Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks after going outside in tick-prone areas. Be especially careful in wooded or bushy areas with high grass. The most common areas where ticks are found are under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially in the hair.

Wash Off Ticks: After coming indoors, bathe or shower as soon as possible to wash off any loosely attached ticks and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

Remove the Tick: The CDC recommends you use this process to remove ticks once they have attached themselves to your skin: "Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water."

Follow-up: If a rash or fever develops within weeks of removing a tick, immediately see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio