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Babesiosis

What Is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a tickborne infection. It spreads when ticks bite and infect red blood cells. This preventable and treatable condition can range from mild to life-threatening.

The infection is usually caused by Babesia microti parasites from black-legged or deer ticks.

Other causes include:

  • Blood transfusion from an infected donor
  • Passed on to baby by an infected mother during pregnancy or delivery

Babesiosis is more common among people who spend time outdoors in wooded, grassy or natural environments. It usually peaks during warm weather.

Symptoms

Symptoms often appear within a week but can take months to develop. If present, symptoms may include:

  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, chills and sweats
  • Headache
  • Nausea or appetite loss

Babesiosis can destroy red blood cells (hemolytic anemia). It can become life-threatening if you have other risks:

  • Weakened immune system – Conditions such as cancer or HIV can increase your risk.
  • Certain diseases – Liver, kidney or other conditions can make it harder to fight infections.
  • No spleen – Having this infection-fighting organ removed can raise babesiosis risk.
  • Advanced age – Age-related conditions can make it harder to fight infections.

Treatment Options

Testing involves examining a blood sample under a microscope for evidence of parasites or causes such as Lyme disease. Your doctor may prescribe medication or other therapies.

Prevention

To prevent babesiosis:

  • Avoid tall grasses and wooded or leafy areas, especially during warmer months.
  • Walk in the center of cleared trails avoiding overgrowth.
  • Wear insect repellents and apply to skin and clothing, following label instructions.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can see ticks.
  • Cover skin with socks, pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into your socks.
  • Check thoroughly and promptly remove any ticks before going indoors.
  • Inspect yourself, children and pets closely and daily – some ticks are as tiny as a poppy seed.
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to carefully remove an attached tick. Grab the tick’s mouth and slowly pull it out.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of babesiosis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat babesiosis.