Lyme Disease Not Only Tick Threat Now, Enter Babesiosis

Lyme Disease is a relatively new infection that can wreak havoc on those infected, and its effects are still being hashed out by the medical community.

Another, similar tick-borne illness is making its way through the Northeast with a devastating path of illness in its wake, despite the innocuous name. Babesiosis mimics lime disease in some ways, but displays some crucial differences:

In 2001, six cases of Babesiosis in Lower Hudson Valley were reported to the CDC. But 119 cases were reported in 2008. In areas such as coastal Connecticut, where Lyme disease is endemic, Babesiosis is becoming more common. But it can often be masked by Lyme-like symptoms. “Like Lyme disease, Babesiosis can cause low-grade fever and fatigue,” says Dr. Michael Parry, director of infectious diseases and microbiology at Stamford Hospital. But unlike Lyme, he says, it isn’t necessarily manifested with joint pains, cardiac symptoms or a rash. “It destroys red blood cells and can cause severe anemia, and its symptoms can resemble those of malaria,” he says.

According to the Centers For Disease Control, one of the scariest aspects of babesiosis is that there is no standard screening for it when people donate and receive blood- it’s actually the most commonly transmitted blood infection through blood transfusion. If medical professionals suspect a patient has Babesiosis, it can be screened for, but it is not a standard check.

Symptoms include low-grade fever, chills and fatigue, but Babesiosis can be fatal in immunocompromised individuals.