NJDOH: Perform tick checks; babesiosis disease cases are on the rise

An African American senior couple hiking through the woods. They are wearing pants and plaid shirts, carrying walking sticks and backpacks.

As residents enjoy summer’s weather, the New Jersey Department of Health has reported an increase in cases of babesiosis,” a disease that infects red blood cells.

Babesiosis, caused by parasites and carried by ticks, can be severe for those facing serious and chronic health conditions such as kidney disease, according to Hopewell Township officials as they warned residents of the rise in cases in the region on July 24.

As of July 16, the department has reported 53 cases of babesiosis. Earlier this month on July 2, only 17 cases of the disease, according to the state Health Department’s (NJDOH) vector-borne surveillance report,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the main way people get the disease is through a bite from an infected tick. The parasite is spread by black legged ticks or deer ticks during the warm months and in areas with woods, brush or grass.

According to the CDC, babesiosis can be a severe and life-threatening disease for people who are elderly, have serious health conditions [liver and kidney disease], have weak immune systems and those who do not have a spleen.

However, the CDC did say that many people who are infected feel fine and do not have symptoms.

Infections are often asymptomatic and most of those who are asymptomatic do not need treatment. With those who are ill, babesiosis is usually treated with one of two combination therapies, according to NJDOH.

People can also be infected with babesiosis through contaminated blood transfusion, or from an infected mother to her child through pregnancy and delivery.

Some prevention measures include avoiding wooded areas with dense shrubs and leaf litter, wearing protective clothing, using insect repellents, performing tick checks and by mowing the lawn and keeping shrubs trimmed, according to the NJDOH.

In 2021, New Jersey had a total of 258 cases of babesiosis that had been reported by the state agency.

The top tickborne disease and conditions for that year was Lyme Disease, which had 3,518 reported cases. So far in 2022, as of NJDOH latest report on July 16, there have been 142 reported cases of Lyme Disease.

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