Babesiosis Another Tick Borne Threat to Your Health
With spring approaching, many people are anxious to get out doors and enjoy the warmer weather. Guess what, ticks, particularly nymphs, are hoping you come by as well as they need a blood meal to make it to the adult stage.
Most are aware of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, that is transmitted through the bites of infected ticks. However, few people are aware of many of the other tick borne diseases. This post is about babesiosis.
Babesiosis is a protazoan infection that will cause weakness, fever, muscle aches, headache, and chills. So far you may think you only have the flu. That is one of the key problems with many zoonotic infections, their symptom mirror more common infections. So people who may be infected won’t go the to doctor and many doctors don’t think that it is possibility. It’s not surprising as in Minnesota only 31 cases of it were identified statewide in 2009, for a rate of 0.6 cases per 100,000. By the way, 31 cases was a record number for them to boot (Source Minnesota DPH). While that may seem a low risk disease (and it is), understand that people can be infected and not know it. Also expect the numbers to climb as the CDC has ruled that Babesiosis is a notifiable disease as of 2011.
Nevertheless, if you are infected it is serious because the protozoan can invade red blood cells and in late stages lead to blood in the urine and death. Thankfully, there is treatment.
The point of this post is not to scare you to death. The point is to be aware of this particular disease and to understand that it is on the rise. If you work in tick favored areas, (moist leaf litter, transition areas between woods and grasses) then you should take steps to protect yourself. Repellents are a must as are careful inspections for ticks. Understand that the tick responsible for this disease is quite small; think one of the letters on a dime, small.
When you visit your doctor, remind him/her that you work with wildlife and thus your exposure to uncommon diseases will be higher. Be informed, protect yourself, and inform your doctor and friends. That is the way to enjoy a long healthy career in wildlife damage management.
Learn more about Babesiosis at http://www.cdc.gov.
Stephen M. Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional (CWCP) and consults, teaches, and writes on wildlife damage management issues.