RI health experts say “Nantucket Fever” on rise

Posted July 25, 2011, at 9:12 p.m.
Last modified July 26, 2011, at 1 p.m.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More Rhode Islanders are testing positive for a little-known tick disease related to malaria, health officials say.

Babesiosis, once better known as Nantucket fever, is caused by a parasite transmitted by a deer tick bite. Healthy individuals often show no sign of the disease or may complain of flulike symptoms. But the disease can be life-threatening for the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

Fifteen years ago the state averaged less than one confirmed case of babesiosis each year. State health records show 76 cases last year and 89 cases in 2009. Health experts in Minnesota and New York have seen similar increases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people heading outdoors wear repellent, pants and long sleeves and check for ticks after outdoor activities.

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