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CDC Warns of Another Emerging Tick-Borne Threat
Date:7/13/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Babesiosis -- a parasitic illness spread by ticks -- is posing a serious threat this summer, especially in certain parts of the country, a U.S. government report warns.

Meanwhile, mosquitoes continue to spread the West Nile virus, according to another report in the July 13 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Babesiosis, the lesser-known disease, is endemic in the Northeast and upper Midwest, where states reported more than 1,100 cases in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 847 were confirmed cases and the rest were probable cases.

The bulk of cases came from seven states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York [including New York City], Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

"This is the first time we have collected information about babesiosis cases on a national level," said Dr. Dana Woodhall of the CDC.

Babesiosis can be life-threatening, especially for people without a spleen and for the elderly.

"Most healthy people remain asymptomatic; some people develop nonspecific illness: headache, fever, chills," Woodhall said.

Most people get the disease from the same tick as the one that carries Lyme disease. And like Lyme disease, babesiosis is treatable with antibiotics.

"Babesiosis is a disease transmitted mainly by ticks and there are steps people can take to prevent the disease," Woodhall said.

The best way to protect yourself is to use tick spray, stick to paths when in the woods and check yourself for ticks after being in the woods or tall grass, Woodhall said.

In addition, pets can carry these ticks home, so they should have tick collars or anti-tick lotions.

Babesiosis can also be transmitted through blood transfusions or from mother to child during pregnancy, the CDC noted.

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