Babesiosis

What is Babesiosis

Babesiosis is an infection caused by a parasite that is carried by certain types of ticks (Ixodes scapularis), such as blacklegged ticks and deer ticks.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by the Babesiaparasite. You can get this parasite:

  • If an infected tick bites you. Usually, a tick must stay attached to your skin for more than 36 hours to give you the parasite.
  • If you receive donated blood (a blood transfusion) that is infected with the parasite.

In rare cases, this condition can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to occur between late spring and early fall. This is when ticks are active. You may be at greater risk if you:

  • Live in or travel to the northeast or upper midwest sections of the United States. The ticks that cause babesiosis are common in these areas.
  • Walk or spend time in woods or fields, especially in areas of high grass.

You may be at risk for a more severe infection if you:

  • Have a weak disease-fighting system (immune system).
  • Are older than 50.
  • Do not have a spleen.
  • Have a serious medical condition.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints.
  • Headaches.

In some cases, there are no symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • Your symptoms and medical history.
  • A physical exam.
  • Blood tests.

How is this treated?

Treatment depends on how severe your symptoms are. If you have no symptoms or if your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment. If you do need treatment, it may involve:

  • A combination of antibiotic medicines.
  • Medicines to relieve pain and other symptoms.

In some severe cases, treatment may also include:

  • Blood transfusions.
  • Exchange transfusions. For this procedure, your blood is removed in small amounts and replaced with donor blood or donor plasma. Plasma is the yellow-colored liquid part of blood.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your health care provider.Do notstop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • If you develop any new symptoms, tell your health care provider. New symptoms can be a sign that you have developed another infection from the tick bite.
  • Rest at home while you recover. Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider.
  • Talk with your health care provider about how to prevent future tick bites.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

  • If you are planning to spend time outdoors in an area where ticks are present, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Tuck your pant legs into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling into your pant legs.
  • Before spending time outside, use insect repellents that contain DEET or permethrin to repel ticks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to apply the repellent.
  • Avoid outdoor areas with leaves, brush, and high grass.
  • After spending time outdoors, inspect your clothing and body for ticks.
  • If you have pets that spend time outside, check them for ticks whenever they come inside.

Learn how to properly remove ticks if you do get bit. Use tweezers or another tool to remove ticks by the head. It is important to remove ticks by the head to prevent pieces of the tick from being left behind in your skin.

Contact a health care provider if you:

  • Notice that your symptoms do not improve after your treatment is complete.
  • Notice that your symptoms improve but then return or get worse after a few days.
  • Develop new symptoms or problems, such as a rash.

Get help right away if you:

  • Develop sudden, severe weakness.
  • Develop severe pain in your abdomen or your chest.
  • Have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing.
  • Have a fast heartbeat.
  • Become confused.
  • Have unexplained bruising or bleeding.
  • Have bleeding that does not stop.

Summary

  • Babesiosis is an infection caused by a parasite (the Babesiaparasite) that is carried by certain types of ticks, such as blacklegged ticks and deer ticks.
  • You can get this parasite if an infected tick bites you, or if you receive donated blood that is infected with the parasite.
  • Treatment depends on how severe your symptoms are. If you have no symptoms or if your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment.
  • You can prevent tick bites by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and socks, and using insect repellent when you are outside in areas where ticks are present.
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