Babesiosis

Babesiosis is an infection caused by the protozoa babesia which infects red blood cells. The species that cause human infections are babesia microtii and divergens. Most people who contract the infection probably have no symptoms however severe and potentially fatal illness can occur especially in individuals whose spleen has been removed or are not functional(sickle cell patients)

Where does it occur?

It occurs world wide : in the United States it is more common in the northeast, around the great lakes and the west coast. In Europe cases have been commonly reported from the Balkans, Russia, France & Germany.

How is it transmitted?

The parasite is carried by rodents (b microtti) and cattle(b divergens) and transmitted to humans by the bite of nymphal ticks that feed on deer mouse and cattle.

Is it contagious from person to person?

No

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low; visitors to rural areas of high risk countries engaged in outdoor activities like camping and hiking in summer time are at greatest risk.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Initial symptoms develop anywhere from 1 week to 2 months after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms are non-specific and similar to flu like illness with fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, headache and abdominal pain. Since the protozoa invade red blood cells and they are destroyed, one may experience dark urine and jaundice.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Diagnosis is made by observing the parasite inside red blood cells on thick and thin smears of blood. Antibody and PCR tests are also available.

Is there any treatment?

Combination antibiotic treatment with clindamycin +quinine is the most effective treatment. In severe cases exchange transfusion of blood is needed in addition to antibiotic treatment.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Take insect safety measures when in at risk are areas and promptly remove any ticks that are on the body.

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