My wife just LOVES deer. Me? I’m not so sure. Sure, they’re gentle and lovely, you’ll get no arguments there. But deer also carry ticks, which are a BIG problem.
You probably think I’m talking about Lyme disease, right?
I’m not. I’m talking about something far deadlier. The tick danger you’ve never even heard of.
The deadly tick-spread disease you’ve never heard of
Move over, Lyme disease. Babesiosis, another tick-borne illness, is on the rise in various parts of the country, and this one can kill. (It’s one of the parasitic diseases I cover in my “Parasites Handbook.”)
Babesiosis is caused by a microscopic parasite that attacks blood cells, causing flu-like symptoms that can make it difficult to accurately diagnose. Like Lyme, which is caused by bacteria, babesia microti parasites are carried by deer ticks.
First documented in Massachusetts in 1969, the once-obscure disease has surfaced as a significant public health threat in parts of the Northeast and Upper Midwest.
A study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that between 2001 and 2008 cases climbed from 6 to 119 in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley — a 20-fold regional increase.
And many cases may be escaping detection, experts say. It’s being under-reported.
Babesiosis often goes dangerously undiagnosed
Around 1,000 cases are reported annually in affected locales, but many people with babesiosis have no symptoms and never know they’re harboring the parasite.
For others, symptoms can include…
- high fever,
- severe headache,
- and muscle aches and pains.
When caught, the disease is treated with antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics. But, unfortunately, many cases are symptom free.
Beware blood donation dangers with babesiosis
Frighteningly, if an undiagnosed person donates blood and the babesiosis isn’t picked up, the results can be severe. About 30 percent of people with compromised health who receive a transfusions die.
To help prevent babesiosis, the CDC advises people with compromised immune systems or other vulnerabilities to avoid tick-infested wooded areas, particularly during warm months. It’s not such a big deal out here in the dry deserts of the West, where I live. But it IS spreading.
To prevent tick bites the CDC recommends…
- Avoid wooded and brush-filled areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walking in the center of trails.
- Use repellents that lasts up to several hours on exposed skin and clothing.
- Bathing or showering as soon as you get indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks.
- Doing a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body when you get back from any potentially tick-infested areas.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Tumble dry clothing in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing. (If the clothes are damp, additional time might be needed.)
- If the clothes require washing hot water is recommended.
Normal tick advisories apply.
Editor’s Note: The tick threat is currently worse than ever – share this article with your friends and family to make sure they’re well-informed this tick season!
May 2011, Emerging Infectious Diseases
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