Tick-Borne Disease Spreading Across Parts Of The US, CDC Warns

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A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown a significant increase in the tick-borne disease babesiosis, making it now endemic in parts of New England.

After tracking data from 2011 and 2019, the CDC concluded March 17 that babesiosis is now endemic in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont after researchers discovered case counts in those states were similar or higher where an endemic of the disease already exists: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. (RELATED: Lyme Disease-Bearing Ticks Spreading Across The Midwest, Study Says)

Babesiosis is a tick-borne disease caused by parasites, typically transmitted through bites of black-legged ticks, according to the CDC. The parasites infect and destroy the red-blood cells of those bitten, causing a range of flu-like symptoms in some, such as fever, chills and fatigue, while others may not exhibit any symptoms at all. Still, for others who already have a debilitating illness, the parasitic-infection can prove fatal, the CDC warns.

Between 2011–2019, 16,456 cases of babesiosis were reported to CDC by 37 states, with 98.2% of the cases reported from the ten states where the disease is now considered endemic. During this period, Vermont reported a 1,602% increase in incidence; Maine a 1,422% rate increase; and New Hampshire a 372% rate increase.

The increasing incidence of babesiosis could have an impact on the nation’s blood supply, the CDC warns, as the disease can be transmitted through blood transfusions. In addition, people who become sickened by babesiosis through contaminated blood, “have been shown to have significantly worse health outcomes and a higher risk of death than do those who acquire the disease from a tick bite,” the CDC stated.

As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended blood donation screening in 14 states, including the District of Columbia. The CDC is also calling on health professionals to look for the signs and symptoms of the disease in patients and recommends emphasizing tick prevention in their messaging including an awareness of infection risk for  people living in and traveling to these states.