A Disease of Concern
Before we start talking about babesosis, let me tell you that there are some infections that are not caused by organisms that we hear about mostly, like the flu these are not transferred from one human to another human. Some organisms other than viruses and bacteria reside inside insects. These insects when they bite humans, they transfer these microorganisms inside, which then cause diseases.
An example of these can be malarial parasite transferred to humans through the bite of a female anopheles mosquito. Another one can be babesiosis which is a relatively uncommon infectious disease which is caused by a protoazoal species called Babesia. Protozoa is a type of single celled microorganism that is different from bacterial. This disease is common in animals, but rare cases do occur in humans with babesiosis infections.
Human babesiosis is a tickborne disease. Tickborne disease is a disease that is brought into the body through ticks. These ticks are transferred to humans through close contact with animals. Particularly through mice infected with ticks. And these ticks then transfer babesia through tick bites. Although there are other tick diseases that can occur with tick bites, but this is certainly most well-known.
Signs & Symptoms
The tick signs are important to note in animals as these can transfer the diseases easily. Babesiosis in dogs; canine babesiosis is fairly common as is bovine babesiosis. This disease known as babesiosis or as human babesiosis for when it occurs in humans can present itself in a variety of different ways or symptoms. It may present as babesiosis rash or it may just be without any serious symptoms or asymptomatic.
If the person is healthy he/she may not present with any symptoms or may present with mild symptoms. These symptoms may include chills or fever, with or without myalgia, (a kind of muscle ache) or nausea and vomiting. Some may also have additional symptoms like abnormal skin coloration or impaired renal (kidney) issues. But, as discussed normally healthy individuals do not present with symptoms, but those individuals that may be immunocompromised can present with such symptoms. For example these are individuals with liver diseases or with renal or kidney diseases. They maybe elderly, suffering from multiple issues.
Such immunocompromised individuals can be people with some autoimmune disorders or with spleen removed or may be suffering from other immune disorders. Human babesiosis can be life threatening if left untreated in such immunocompromised individuals. As these the immune system is already burdened with another disease, this tickborne disease starts acting like an opportunist infection. And some cases of transfusion associated sepsis may also be associated with such individuals.
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If human babesia is left untreated can be a cause of different serious complications. These may include invariable blood pressure, blood disorders like thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts), or hemolytic anemia, malfunction of the organs (e.g. lungs or kidneys), or Disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC, and or even death.
There may be many other types of babesia infections, only a small number of which occur in humans and cause infection. This human babesia is called the microti type or the Babesia Microti. This tick borne infection usually infects small mammals e.g. mice and such small footed mammals. There may be other species of babesia spreading sporadically but by far the most common human babesia is of the microti type.
This babesia is transferred from the young tick which is more liable to bite as it is growing. Particularly in the warm seasons as circumstances for multiplication are most optimum in summer temperatures. Most individuals do not even feel the bite as the size of the tick is very small. Ultimately, which type of babesia or human babesia; someone gets normally depends on the geographical location of the person.
Affected Populations by Babesosis
Although people of any age can get this infection, but it normally affects older individuals usually over fifty (50) years of age. Gender differentiation is not likely as both males and females are affected in equal numbers. But those people with low immunity or with splenectomy as they are also have a weakened immune system. Another problem with the disease is that it remains unrecognized. Due to which babesiosis is under reported. Although it is not possible to miss the presence of such infections, this can be attributed to low awareness of the infection.
Diagnosis of human babesiois depends upon a number of factors. First the patient has to realize the infection, then the physician to consider babesiosis. Then finally through blood samples examined under microscope going through a comprehensive analysis, as it is a fairly uncommon sight. These then are confirmed through antibody testing.
Normally babesiosis is treated through an antibiotic or an antiparasitic drug. But most of the time healthy individuals spontaneously resolve these infections. But occasionally individuals might require such treatment due to a weakened system of immunity.
Prevention of babesiosis is fairly simple, by avoiding contact with tick bearing animals as almost all cases of human babesiosis occur through the tick borne route of transmission. Other than that, there can be other preventive ways to avoid such infections. Certain clothing measures like wearing long trousers, hats and long sleeved shirts or overalls.
Wearing light colors to improve visibility for ticks. The usage of materials such as repellants, taking showers immediately after contact with animals and proper examination of some body areas such as neck or scalp can help prevent human babesiosis.
It can also be avoided by not going into marshes, wooded areas or overgrowing fields, where risk of exposure of such ticks is high. But having a 360 degree approach that may include all measures would be a good strategy to avoid such an infection.
If there are animals in the surroundings, getting them looked by a veterinary physician regularly can avoid them getting ticks that might contain the parasite.
Although it is a rare infection, babesosis is an infection that can be an issue of concern for individuals. The smart thing would be to be aware that such a thing can occur and how to take measure to avoid such risks.