Babesiosis, spread by deer ticks, could come to rival Lyme disease-

Ticks are an incredible reservoir of nasty diseases, and it seems like new ones are frequently discovered. Unfortunately, all too many are transmitted by the hard-to-see, small deer tick, which is much more common in the Eastern U.S.  The larger, creepy-looking Rocky Mountain wood tick also passes serious and lethal diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but they are easier to detect on clothing and skin.

Babesia microti is a protozoan that lives in red blood cells (like Malaria). It is spreading very rapidly in the areas first hit by Lyme Disease in the Northeastern U.S. Some cases have appeared in the upper Mid-West. It is thought that the animal reservoir is one or more rodents, probably mice. Like Lyme Disease many infections of babesiosis cause mild to no  noticeable symptoms.

A very important social side effect of the growing number of diseases like this is discouragement of people spending time outside and activities involving wildlife. With increasing budget cuts for public health and research in infectious diseases, illness like this will take an increasing toll. Climate change too has the result of tropical diseases moving northward (and southward in the Southern Hemisphere).

Once Rare, Infection by Tick Bites Spreads. By Laurie Tarken. New York Times.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

18 Responses to A new, sometimes lethal, tick bite infection spreads

  1. avatar Immer Treue says:

    This American conservationis what I have been referring to when I say it is the little things that will get is. The model has done all it could possibly do to turn this country into a giant feed lot. Hunters bemoan the fact that wolves are killing all the deer and elk. I. Don’ know about the NRM states, but I would wage a large sum money that there are many more deer in the US now than before the Europeans got here.

    Add to this, the century long battle to remove predators from the environment. Think about it, just about anything thT has teeth that eats another animal has been targeted. Folks complain about E. granulosus, but the perfect storm has been set up in terms of Lyme, and B. microti. The tick cycle is now a highway. I’ve read that as many as 30% of MN deer ticks harbor Lyme’s.

    I don’t know of any research projects existing that would support my argument, but I am aware of, I believe an area os Conn. That was infested with deer and Lyme. They got rid of deer, and the rate of Lyme went down.

    To conclude, I have argued with ofhers in the past that the hidden value of wolves in the Gl states has been immeasureBle in terms the reduction in agriculturL damage, reduction of deer/auto collisions, and slowing down the spread of disease such as Lyme’s.

  2. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Again, excuse the grammar and spelling in above post, as my thumbs and this tiny key board are like the three stooges working together. I believe the content of my comment is understandable.:-)

  3. avatar Wolfy says:

    Its a rough life out there in the woods, but one shouldn’t be paranoid. Like most maladies, its highly preventable with some basic actions and information, similar to Lyme’s Disease. The link to the CDC site for babesiosis is below.

    http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/babesiosis/gen_info/faqs.html

    “Greater fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.” Augustus de Morgan

  4. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Wolfy,
    So right you are. Anyone who has spent time with a microscope, or for that matter a good magnifying lens can attest to the fact. Precautions are also availabe to all who choose to use them.

    Point I hoped to make was that removal of predators, increase of deer habitat, and farmland for mice, and the circumstances for the spread of tick borne diseases have become serendipitous.

  5. avatar Harley says:

    I have really gotta stop going back and forth from these sites, I see a lot of validity on both sides and this is no exception. Having the predators makes sense in keeping ungulate populations in check. Prime example are the deer in Illinois. Without much to keep them in check, I remember they had become a fair nuisance and danger with their increased numbers. People opposed hunters trying to thin the numbers but they also don’t like the idea of wolves and cougars living in their back yard. And as numerous as our coyotes have become, I just can’t see them as a huge threat to the deer populations. I have no idea what the solution would be however. I don’t think our forest preserves in the suburbs are the best places for wolves and cougars.

    I have to admit I do think twice about hiking in the forest preserves with the threat of deer ticks and the like. (Bugs are my downfall! *all over body shudder*) I’ll have to read that link provided by Wolfy!

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Global warming combined with massive logging in the Northwoods are the big factors. The white-footed mouse is the main carrier, and guess what? They love forest openings of ten acres or less.

    This is a man-made problem ,and the increase of lyme/babs cases in the last thirty years is no accident.

  7. avatar Leslie says:

    The tick problem in Northern California has worsened hundred fold in the last 10 years. During the winter months, you can’t go out for an hour hike without your dog returning with over 40 ticks or more. This goes on for six months of the year and in some areas 12 months. Lyme disease is becoming more commonplace there as well. This is due to the increased numbers of deer with few large predators besides cougars around, as well as limited hunting or no hunting around suburban areas.
    The war on predators just has to stop. We need our apex predators to keep these diseases in check.

  8. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    I have been reading about control of deer ticks, and nothing seems to work as effectively as reducing high populations of white-tailed deer. This is a Connecticut study.

    Some birds eat deer ticks, but others are parasitized by them, serving to spread Lyme disease. Guinea fowl reportedly are one of the most effective predators of ticks.

  9. White Tailed Deer carry a lot more than just tick diseases. They are the host for the giant liver fluke and several other parasites that can decimate other herbivores.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Thanks Larry,

      Anti-wolf activists discovered that wolves carry some parasites (they only seem to know about one) and can be infected by diseases that fell other canids. They try to use this tiny bit of information to further their political agenda.

      Neither they, nor the public at large seem to understand that almost all human infectious diseases and parasites came originally from fish and wildlife and domesticated animals.

      I would say that every mammal carries diseases that infect other species of mammals and sometimes humans, both directly and indirectly. Most infections began as a zoonosis.

  10. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Not to gang up on whitetails, but as their population expands due to clear cutting, moose suffer due to brainworm. Moose are not doing all that well up here, and it is not just because of wolves. There also seems to be evidence out there that most ungulates out West are at a competitive disadvantage to elk

  11. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    Immer Treue,

    It is white-tailed deer that are expanding all over the place, IMO.

  12. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Ralph,

    No argument from me. Look at deer/auto collisions and agricultural damage. Part of the equation for Lyme’s disease… White tail deer. I’ve been saying for quite some time, as difficult as living with wolves is for some, there is a real benefit to having them around.

    • avatar Harley says:

      Immer
      do you think there is a benefit to having them around in suburbia? Wolves that is, not the deer! We already know that one is not an advantage!

    • avatar Mike says:

      There’s only so much wolves can do. Minnesota and Michigan have had healthy wolf populations for some time now, and lyme cases are only increasing. The problem is global warming and unnatural forest openings. Most of these ticks are found in the knee-high grass in these kinds of openings which are used by the white-footed mouse and white-tailed deer.

  13. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Harley,

    If and when I am in the burbs, I would not have a problem with them. ThT said, I don’t think they could handle the road network in any large metropolitan area. As many deer that are in and around major cities suburbs, there is no place for wolves to disperse and wander them to roam.

    • avatar JB says:

      I tend to agree. Their just too big; that is, their size demands considerable resources, which will generally requires large home ranges. The larger the home range, the more roads that need to be crossed; the more roads crossed, the greater the chance of getting whacked by a passing car or (in rural areas) shot for being in the wrong place.

      With that said, the state of New Jersey has some of the highest black bear densities anywhere–and they are living right in the suburbs. Our “modern”, spend-all-your-time-inside lifestyle has left considerable space for these animals. I don’t think this would have been possible 20 years ago.

  14. avatar Harley says:

    Hmm…. food for thought. I’m not sure how I’d feel. On the one hand, I don’t think the wolf belongs in the ‘burbs or the city for that matter. It’s certainly NOT their natural habitat. They would have a lot of things to choose from for food though. Deer, Rats the size of racoons… I truly believe that wolves only become a problem for people when their natural food source is diminished. I suppose that is true though for any wild animal.

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