Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program

Vector-borne Diseases

Babessiosis FAQs


Question 1. What is babesiosis?
A. Babesiosis is a rare and severe tick-borne disease caused by various types of Babesia, a microscopic parasite that infects red blood cells.

[top of page]

Question 2. Who gets babesiosis?
A. Babesiosis is seen most frequently in children under the age of 15, adults over the age of 50, and in people who have other illnesses that make it hard for them to fight off germs.

[top of page]

Question 3. How is babesiosis spread?
A. Babesiosis is spread by the bite of an infected tick (usually the American Deer Tick). Transmission can also occur due to the transfusion of blood that is contaminated with the germs that cause babesiosis.

[top of page]

Question 4. What are the signs of babesiosis?
A. Some of the signs of babesiosis are generally flu-like in nature, most often fever and fatigue. Some people have also been known to get babesiosis and not show any signs of the disease

[top of page]

Question 5. When do the signs of babesiosis appear?
A. Signs of babesiosis can appear anywhere from 1 week to 9 weeks after infection. However, in some cases it may take longer than 8 weeks for signs and symptoms to show.

[top of page]

Question 6. What is the treatment for babesiosis?
A. Babesiosis can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

[top of page]

Question 7. How do I protect myself from getting babesiosis?
A. To prevent Babesiosis and other tick-borne illnesses, the best protection is to avoid contact with ticks. If you are working, playing, or relaxing in areas that may have ticks you should do the following:

  1. Wear light colored clothing (spot ticks easier) with long sleeve shirts and pants
  2. Create an extra "no tick" zone by tucking your pants into your socks and you shirt into your pants
  3. Use insect repellent (with DEET) on your skin and apply permethrin (kills ticks on contact) to your clothes. For information on other recommended repellents, click on the following link: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm
  4. Check your clothing and skin carefully after being outdoors in likely tick infested areas & remove ticks promptly
  5. Wash area of any possible tick bites thoroughly with soap and water, apply an antiseptic to area of the bite
  6. Mark on a calendar the date that you were bitten, then watch yourself for signs of babesiosis or any changes in your personal health every day for the next two months
  7. Keep your lawn mowed, cut overgrown brush, and clear away leaf litter from your home
  8. Inspect any pets daily and remove any ticks found

[top of page]

Question 8. How do I properly remove a tick?
A. Using tweezers, you should grab the tick at it's mouth and using firm steady pressure you should pull the tick out. Do not yank or squish the tick because it may have harmful bodily fluids. Also, do not use petroleum jelly, hot matches, nail polish remover or any other substance to remove the tick. Using those items could increase the risk of an infection.

[top of page]

Question 9. How do I obtain information on tick identification?
A. You can have a tick identified by sending it to the Maine Medical Center Lyme Research Lab. For specific instructions on how to submit a tick please go to the Maine Medical Center Lyme Research Lab External site disclaimer

[top of page]