New study shows babesiosis cases growing in New Jersey

Ben Ruset

Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
Monmouth County,21133,679232,00.html

New study shows babesiosis cases growing in New Jersey
A difficult to diagnose and potentially-deadly tick-borne disease has reached endemic proportions in New Jersey just six years after the state recorded no such cases, according to a federal study that will be published next month.

Investigators for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found the parasitic disease, known as babesiosis, was particularly acute in Ocean and Burlington counties. Of the 40 studied cases reported between 1993 and 2001, more than half of them emanated from the two counties.

However, authors of the study, which will be published in the February issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, stopped short of saying the disease was more prevalent in central counties than elsewhere in the state.

Babesiosis (pronounced bah-BEE-see-oh-sis) is caused by a parasite that invades red blood cells and can be transmitted by the same tick that carries Lyme disease. Humans can also get the disease through blood transfusions.

Two of the cases studied by the CDC involved patients who later died from the disease, although the center noted babesiosis rarely results in fatalities. Early symptoms include tiredness, loss of appetite, and a general malaise while late-stage symptoms can include fever, drenching sweats, muscle aches and a headache.

Researchers also suspect the number of cases they looked at "probably represent only a fraction of the clinical cases" of babesiosis because few doctors know to check for the disease.

Most reported cases of babesiosis have been found in the Northeast -- particularly in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island -- so it is not surprising that the disease has made its way to New Jersey, the study found.

Of the 40 cases studied, all were acquired in eight of the state's 21 counties. While Ocean (12 cases) and Burlington (13) accounted for 65 percent of the cases, the disease was also discovered in Atlantic (5), Monmouth (3), Hunterdon (3), Somerset (2), Mercer (1) and Camden (1).

The study also found that most of the cases occurred in elderly people -- the median age of patients was 67 years -- and more than half were men.

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services began collecting data on the disease in 1985 but discontinued the practice five years later because no cases had been reported. The department reinstated the reporting in 1995, and the first case of babesiosis was recorded in 1997.

Since then 72 cases have been reported, including 21 in 2001 and 23 last year, according to department statistics. Not all cases recorded by the state were included in the CDC study.

Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, the state epidemiologist and assistant health commissioner, said the study raises some concern from a public-health perspective, but that clearly babesiosis will not reach the infection levels of the more prevalent Lyme disease, which afflicted more than 2,000 people two years ago.

"I think it is endemic, and we'll always have some cases," Bresnitz said. "But it's not likely to take over Lyme disease in terms of the state's primary tick-related illness. In perspective, it's not as significant an illness."

The presence of babesiosis could help also explain why some people with Lyme disease do not improve in health despite antibiotic treatment, according to the study.

"For those doctors who are in areas where they have ticks and tick-related illnesses, this might be one more thing to consider," Bresnitz said.

Researchers said the escalation of the disease could could include a growing abundance of the local deer tick population or the introduction of a more virulent strain of babesiosis. It could also be attributed to an increased awareness or better reporting of the disease.

The health department may send a message through the state's health-alert network informing physicians that the study is available on the Internet, Bresnitz said.

The CDC initialized its investigation in 1999 after a 53-year-old Burlington woman was hospitalized with respiratory distress and anemia. She was eventually diagnosed with babesiosis and survived.

Rick Hepp: (732) 643-4212 or


Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
Pines; Bamber area
Dwell time

I wonder Ben, how long the tick must be feeding before the disease is transmitted. If you see that somewhere I'd like to know it.

Ben Ruset

Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
Monmouth County
It's also important to note that, like Lymes, diseases can't be passed by those larval ticks - the small ones that I always seem to come out of the woods full of.

You're their first meal, so they can't be infected with anything.

After last year's adventures, I don't think I'd go into the woods without some SERIOUS repellant on.

I wish they'd make some sort of chemical that only affects ticks and spray the hell out of the woods with it. I don't think ticks contribute anything to the environment.


I wish they'd make some sort of chemical that only affects ticks and spray the hell out of the woods with it. I don't think ticks contribute anything to the environment.

Part of the food chain...bird food.

But I too despise the critters. Kristen has had Lymes and it was not fun. My older sister has permanent problems as a result of Lymes.



Babe Sciosis. Didn't our last U.S. President have that? :)

Seriously though, although getting this disease isn't as easy as getting Lyme disease, it still is something to watch out for.

It may not be practicle to completely eliminate them, which, like wiping out timber rattlers, yellow jackets, black flys, etc., isn't that bad an idea, the key to protecting humans is to keep their numbers in check. I noticed that the adult tick, which is the real problem, is carried primarily by deer. When the deer population gets too large, so does the tick population. I imagine that a good part of the problem with deer overpopulation (if indeed there is an overpopulation in the Pine Barrens), is the lack of natural preditors to keep the deer population from exceedint the carrying capacity. I remember learning about New Jersey wanted to have a special deer hunt, as they do in parks in Pennsylvania, somewhere around the Washingtons Crossing New Jersey area a few years back. This met with alot of resistance from certain rich, politically connected Disney Ecologists.

I guess it's reasonable to believe that the higher, dryer areas, mainly in the northern part of the Pine Barrens, especially where controlled burns were used to clear brush, thus elminating some deer habitat, is where you would be less likely to encounter ticks, a least the kind that carry Lyme disease and babesciosis. Ticks love areas around dead wood that's skattered on the ground, That's why it's good to clear areas of this debris. A year or two ago, one summer, I hung around and area near the lake, just below Basto Village, where there was alot of downed, decaying wood in a clearing. I picked up scads of ticks.

I used to make a home made spray, but later realized that although it works fairly well, it is short-lived. You have to keep spraying yourself. Maybe I'll try Deet.

The key in any case to minimize problems with disease in the woods is to keep in ecologically balanced. To do this, wise management practices must be implimented.