Babesiosis is one of at least 17 Tick illnesses in the United States. Survive addresses symptoms, prevention and treatment. Any concerns that you may have babesiosis please follow up with your Health Care Provider.

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Babesiosis is a tick bourne illness that effects red blood cells. It is delivered by the black legged tick or deer tick ( Ixodes scapularis ) . This tick is of tawny or dark brown appearance with black legs. Very identifiable as compared to the lone star tick which has a white dot on its thorax. Important to note; In order for this transmission to take place, the tick has to have the parasite and it must stay attached and feed for 24 to 72 hours.

Babesiosis Geographic Location

It is common during the warm months and is mainly seen in the upper midwest and Northeast. This tick is common in brush piles, tall weeds and dead leaves.

CDC US Map of Babesiosis in 2018

The tick commonly transmits during the nymph stage due to its tiny size. At the nymph stage, it is the size of a numeral on a penny and at this stage it has six legs. As an adult, it has eight legs.  Due to its small size, it is very difficult to see.

Babesiosis Symptoms

The incubation period of Babesiosis is 1-4 weeks after tick bite or 6-9 weeks after a blood transfusion ( incidental transmission from blood transfusion. ). Physical exam reveals splenomegaly in some patients ( enlarged spleen ) fatigue, fever, and some patients show petechiae ( small red dots on skin ) Classic symptoms over several days are as follows: fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, nausea and emesis. Some may have liver involvement evidenced by yellowing of eyes and dark tea-colored urine.  Addendum : About 25% of positive Babesiosis patients have concurrent Lyme disease.

Babesiosis Treatment

Antibiotics remain the mainstay of treatment and success is good when caught early enough.

Babesiosis Prevention

Prevention is mostly common sense however, we do not want fear to keep us indoors. We want to enjoy life and the outdoors and we can do that with some instrumental changes.

  1. Wearing light-colored clothing and in severe endemic areas wear your socks on the outside of your pant legs. If you know it is a bad area for ticks , you may want to try using duct tape at sleeve and pant leg openings to make sure nothing can crawl in. It’s something I have found to be useful in the past.
  2. Wearing a head covering is key and children and adults with long hair  would be wise to pin it up under the hat.
  3. DEET diethyltoluamide is a clear liquid that is applied to your skin to mask Carbon dioxide which is the gas expressed from our skin and other mammals. This is one of two ways ticks can locate you. The other is by grasping on as you walk by. Be advised – do not put DEET on clothes, tents or rain gear. It can easily ruin these articles. It DOES NOT WORK by spraying this on clothes even though there may be some small benefit by masking carbon dioxide through your clothes. Survive Outdoors does NOT advise DEET with more than 30% as it can be absorbed and effect renal function. They do make some products with 100% DEET and some hikers and campers rave about how good it is. I would never put this on children or elderly as their skin is thiner and side effects can be increased.
  4. Permethrin can actually kill ticks, however, this is NOT to be applied to your skin but only on your clothes and usually can last through a couple of wash cycles. Highly advised for hunters in the fall. (Especially deer and turkey hunters.)