Insect-Linked Illness Is Spreading Across the US

Insect-Linked Illness Is Spreading Across the US

( – Many people are aware that certain ticks can infect them with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, that’s not the only disease the little critters can spread. Another one of them is on the rise.

On March 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the number of babesiosis cases are on the rise in the US. The disease is primarily found in the Midwest and Northeast and is transmitted by bites from black-legged ticks. According to the health agency, the illness is also spread through organ transplants, from mother to child, and blood transfusions. The infections can be fatal in severe cases.

The CDC reported that from 2011 to 2019, there was a 25% increase in cases. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island all saw a significant increase in cases. Maine went from having 9 cases to 138, an increase of 1,422%. Vermont had the largest increase, going from 2 to 34 cases, or 1,602%.

The symptoms of babesiosis infections can include headache, fever, and joint and muscle pain. In severe cases, patients can develop acute respiratory distress, thrombocytopenia, and renal failure.

The good news is that the disease is preventable if precautions are taken outdoors. Know when ticks are most active in your area. For example, in Wisconsin, the insects are found more often from May to November. Be cautious all year, but especially in the most active months.

Before going outdoors, the CDC recommends treating your clothes and gear with products that contain 0.5% permethrin. There are also clothes and gear you can purchase that are pretreated with the insecticide. Ticks love wooded, grassy, and brushy areas, and places where there’s a lot of leaf litter. Your yard could be a tick theme park, so be aware of that when taking your pets outdoors, gardening, or doing other activities.

When you go inside your home, look over your clothing for ticks. Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. Check your pets and take a shower. Always check your body for ticks, including your hair, ears, belly button, underarms, back of your knees, between your legs, and around your waist. If you have a tick on you, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, then pull up using steady, even pressure.

Sterilize the area and your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

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