Friday, August 03, 2012

Get Ready Mailbag: Do ticks spread babesisos? How do I protect myself?

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

Q: My cousin was recently diagnosed with babesiosis, which her doctor said comes from ticks. I’ve never heard of it — am I at risk, too? How can I protect myself?

A: Your cousin’s doctor is right. The main way that people get babesiosis is from a tick bite.

The disease is spread by a parasite called Babesia which lives inside of certain types of ticks. These ticks are so small — about the size of a poppy seed — that you may not even know if you’ve been bitten.
[Photo: Young form of Ixodes scapularis, 
the type of tick that spreads Babesiosis.
Photo by G. Hickling,
University of Tennessee, courtesy CDC.]

Babesiosis can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, headaches, body aches, tiredness, nausea and loss of appetite. Health professionals may suspect this illness if you live in the Northeast or upper Midwest and if these symptoms show up during the summer months. However, some people don’t show any symptoms at all, so preventing tick bites is the key! (

To prevent tick bites:
  • Hike on well-marked trails and stay out of bushes and long grass.
  • Make sure to cover your skin with long pants and shirts.
  • Apply bug spray.
  • After walking through wooded areas or spending time outdoors, inspect your clothes and body for ticks.
The good news is that babesiosis is easy to treat once it is detected.

We hope your cousin recovers quickly and that you continue to stay safe!

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