Babesiosis is a rare disease carried by ticks infected with the Babesia parasite. It most often affects cows, horses, sheep, dogs, and cats, but it can be transmitted to people through tick bites.
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Watch out for that tick! Ticks carry many different diseases, including babesiosis (ba-bee-ze-O-sis), Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
What Are Babesia?
Babesia (ba-BEE-ze-a) are protozoa, or one-celled organisms, that often live as parasites * infecting cows, horses, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, and other animals. Ticks pick up Babesia when they feed on infected animals. The protozoa then multiply in the tick, and when the tick bites a person or another animal, the protozoa travel from the tick into the new host, where they begin multiplying again.
What Happens When People Get Babesiosis?
The Babesia parasite invades the body's red blood cells and can destroy them. If left untreated, babesiosis may destroy red blood cells faster than the body can replace them.
Doctors believe that many cases of babesiosis do not cause any symptoms. But in some cases, symptoms may start one to four weeks after the tick bite occurs, and symptoms may last for several weeks or months. People with babesiosis may experience fever, chills, sweating, fatigue, and anemia. Its symptoms are similar to those of malaria.
Diagnosis and treatment
Doctors diagnose babesiosis by examining blood under a microscope. If they detect the parasite, they will prescribe medications to fight the infection and to rid the body of the parasite. Babesiosis is usually curable, although repeated courses of treatment may be necessary.
* parasites are creatures that live in and feed on the bodies of other organisms. The animal or plant harboring the parasite is called its host.
* spleen is an organ near the stomach that helps the body fight infections.
Most patients recover with few, if any, lasting effects. The most serious and sometimes fatal cases are found in elderly people, in pregnant women, in people who have had their spleens * removed, or in people with immune deficiencies.
How Do People Prevent Babesiosis?
The best methods of prevention are the use of insect repellant and proper clothing. People in tick-infested areas should wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots. That can help to keep ticks from reaching the skin. If ticks do attach to the skin of people or pets, the ticks should be removed with tweezers.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has
information about babesiosis and other tickborne diseases at its