Babesiosis is brought about by microscopic parasites that are capable of infecting the red blood cells and spread by ticks. The transmission via ticks is prevalent in certain areas and seasons, especially during the warm months.
Even though many individuals who are infected do not have any symptoms, there are effective treatment options available for those who have symptoms. Remember that babesiosis can be prevented with steps to minimize exposure to ticks.
How can I become infected?
An individual can become infected with babesiosis in various ways:
- Bite from an infected tick especially when engaging in outdoor activities in areas where babesiosis has been reported.
- Blood transfusion from a donor who has the infection without any symptoms.
- Congenital spread from a diseased mother to a child throughout pregnancy or delivery has been reported but rare.
Indications of babesiosis
Many individuals who are infected by Babesia microti usually feel fine and do not have any symptoms. In some cases, non-specific flu-like symptoms such as sweats, fever, chills, body aches, headache, nausea, appetite loss or fatigue can occur.
Since the parasites infect and terminate the red blood cells, babesiosis can trigger the development of a special form of anemia known as hemolytic anemia which causes jaundice and urine that is dark in color.
There are steps that must be taken to minimize the risk for babesiosis and other tick-borne conditions. Remember that avoidance of being exposed to tick habitats is the ideal defense.
- Apply repellants as a protective measure to minimize the risk for acquiring babesiosis. Those that contain DEET can be applied directly to exposed skin and clothing to keep ticks away.
- Stay in the center of cleared trails to reduce contact to leaf litter, overgrown grasses and brush where ticks are likely present.
- Cover as much skin as possible by wearing long pants, socks and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck the pants into the socks so that ticks could not crawl inside the pants. Make sure that light-colored clothing are worn so that ticks can be easily seen.
- Permethrin products applied on boots or clothing can eliminate ticks and remains effective after several washings.
- Conduct a full-body examination for any ticks especially behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, between the toes, under the arms, inside the belly button, behind and in the ears, back of the neck and around the scalp, hairline and hair.
If ticks are found attached to the skin, they should be removed right away by using tweezers. Hold the mouth parts of the tick close to the skin and slowly tug straight out until the tick lets go.