Causes of Babesiosis

More than 100 species of Babesia exist, but only a small number of species are known to be responsible for the majority of symptomatic disease. The causative agent of babesiosis varies according to geographic region.

Babesia microti live and divide within red blood cells, destroying the cells and causing anemia. The majority of people who are infected have no visible symptoms. In those who become ill, symptoms appear one to six weeks following the tick bite. Because the ticks are small, many patients have no recollection of a tick bite. The symptoms are flu-like and include tiredness, loss of appetite, fever, drenching sweats, and muscle pain. Nausea, vomiting, headache, shaking chills, blood in the urine, and depression can occur.

Persons who are over 40 years old, have had their spleen removed (splenectomized), and/or have a serious disease (cancer, AIDS, etc.) are at a greater risk for severe babesiosis. In severe cases of babesiosis, up to 85% of the blood cells can be infected. This causes a serious, possibly fatal, blood deficiency.

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