Friday, June 24, 2011

Lyme Disease


Lyme disease isn’t the only reason to be on the lookout for ticks anymore. Babesiosis, a relatively new and possibly fatal infection is sweeping the northeast. Although only six cases were reported in 2001 in the Lower Hudson Valley, 2008 brought 119 cases of the tick-borne illness to the area ABC reports, illustrating the speed of the disease’s spread.
Unlike Lyme disease, the illness’s malaria-like symptoms frequently go unnoticed and when they are experienced, they usually consist of a low fever, chills and fatigue. Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School explains the malady, saying, “For the most part, it doesn’t know how to make us sick. If you are young and healthy you may never know you have an infection and it comes and goes all by itself.”
While many victims regain their health without ever knowing it was in danger, the illness does pose a potentially deadly threat to patients whose immune systems are already compromised. The co-author of the paper that introduced the disease, Dr. Gary Wormser, reports that 1in 20 people hospitalized for the infection die because its impact is so variable. “Some people get over it spontaneously and other people get really sick,” Wormser tells ABC.
And this, the Daily Weston argues, is the scariest part of babesiosis. It can go completely unnoticed. The CDC reported that babesiosis is the infection most commonly transmitted through blood infusions, and samples are not systematically screened for the infection so detection of the illness depends solely on asking donors about their health.
Researchers are currently working on improving the treatment of babesiosis, and patients can currently expect to receive a combination of antibiotics and the malaria drug quinine. But the best way to defend oneself from babesiosis and other tick-borne diseases, like Lyme diseas, is prevention. ABC suggests having someone check your body for ticks after spending time outside and always using tick repellent.

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