Babesiosis; Human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA)
The tick that carries Lyme disease and human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) can also carry babesiosis. Babesiosis is caused by a parasite called protozoa. It has been detected in about 10% of Lyme disease patients, and has been reported in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, California, and Washington.
When babesiosis is acquired from ticks, the infection occurs only in the summer. However, unlike in Lyme disease, blood transfusions have also been known to transmit babesiosis, so it can also occur other times of the year. The disease is still very rare, but people in tick-infested areas should be aware of it.
Symptoms of babesiosis occur 1 - 4 weeks after a tick bite and are similar to those of malaria. Most cases are very mild and nearly unrecognizable. More severe symptom may resemble those in malaria and include:
In healthy people, babesiosis generally causes only mild and temporary problems, but research indicates that the infection might persist in some people and may be spreading faster than previously reported. In rare cases, it can be severe and even life threatening, particularly in elderly people or those with chronic health problems or compromised immune systems. In such cases, the infection can cause altered mental states, anemia and other blood abnormalities, very low blood pressure, respiratory distress, and kidney insufficiency. Co-infection with Lyme disease may also increase its severity. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to diagnose.
Babesiosis is caused by a protozoon parasite, not a bacteria, so antibiotics alone wonâ ' t cure the disease. Treatment involves a two-drug combination of an anti-malaria medication and an antibiotic. The standard drug combinations are atovaquone (Mepron) plus azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) or clindamycin plus quinine. About 25% of patients cannot tolerate quinine. Adverse effects associated with quinine include hearing loss, tinnitus, stomach upset, diarrhea, and dizziness.
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