According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of babesiosis, a dangerous and sometimes deadly tick-borne disease, is increasing in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States – including New Jersey.
In New Jersey, cases of babesiosis increased 40.9%, from 166 in 2011 to 236 in 2019, according to the CDC.
Overall, cases spiked in 8 of 10 northeastern states and declined in only two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Three new states – Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont -joined the list of states where babesiosis is now considered endemic.
Babesiosis is already considered endemic in New Jersey, as well as New York, Connecticut Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
The report also shows that overall tick-borne diseases increased by 25% between 2011 to 2019, with 16,456 cases of babesiosis reported to the CDC during that period.
Symptoms of babesiosis include fever, chills, sweats, headaches, body aches, nausea, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Illnesses may range from asymptomatic to mild or severe. In rare cases, the disease can be fatal, particularly for immunocompromised individuals or those without a spleen.
Federal health data indicates that up to 20% of adult cases and 50% of pediatric cases are asymptomatic. However, illnesses can range from mild to severe, with complications that include plummeting blood platelets, kidney failure, or acute respiratory distress syndrome, which causes a buildup of fluid in the lungs.
The CDC recommends a combination of antimicrobial medications, such as azithromycin and atovaquone, for treating the illness.