Dutchess (NY) at center of rising tick threat
Excerpted from Poughkeepsie Journal: (12/24/2012)
When John Darcy began to get sick some eight years ago, it was in slow, painful increments. An outdoorsman and athlete for years, the Beacon resident, now 68, found he could not jog or bike as far. Aging, he thought. He suffered soreness he had never known. Push through it, he told himself.
But soon he was losing his balance. He lacked the strength even to pull back his bow. He could not dress himself or lift his arm to shave.
As he lost weight and vitality, Darcy was prodded and tested for everything, it seems, but the thing it turned out to be: a burgeoning disease called babesiosis.
“It was never even mentioned,” said Darcy, 68, a retired Beacon IBMer and correction officer, who was also diagnosed with Lyme disease in a one-two tick-borne punch. “I never even heard of the word.”
That may change. Someday, perhaps not so far into the future, the so-called “emerging” malady known as babesiosis may join Lyme disease as another environmental scourge wrought by the tiny and insidious black-legged tick. And Dutchess County is at the crest of this gathering wave.
Dutchess ranks first
In 2011, Dutchess ranked first in New York state and 13th nationally in per-capita rate of the disease, according to statistics released exclusively to the Poughkeepsie Journal by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county had the nation’s third-highest number of cases, which rose from 4 in 2002 to 53 in 2011.
“The Hudson River Valley has eclipsed Long Island for Lyme disease and babesiosis,” said Dr. Alan MacDonald, a long-time Lyme researcher and Long Island pathologist. “You’re up to your neck in ticks that carry babesiosis.”
Babesiosis is a disease, like malaria, most often linked to a protozoan parasite called Babesia microti, though other strains cause illness too. It is usually treated with antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs.
Just why the disease is emerging now – long after Lyme disease hit– may have something to do with what scientists call “reservoirs” of infection: birds and mammals that infect the ticks that in turn bite people.