Rhode Island Reports Seasonal Peak Of Tick-Borne Diseases

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that the state is reaching its expected annual peak of reported cases of babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and Lyme Disease. All three of these diseases are tick-borne and are transmitted by the same type of tick, the Deer tick.

Nationally and regionally, these diseases are becoming more common each year.


In both 2006 and 2007, there were about 60 cases of babesia and about 25 cases of ehrlichia. Additionally, on average, there are several hundred confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in the state each year. The majority of cases of these three diseases are reported late spring through the end of September.

"Because of HEALTH's disease reporting and surveillance system, we have identified an increase in tick-borne illnesses such as babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and Lyme Disease this year," said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. "While tick-borne diseases are endemic in Rhode Island and throughout the Northeast, proper precautions can prevent tick bites and these illnesses."

You and your family can prevent tick-borne diseases. Remember to: 1. Wear light-colored clothing. Tuck pants into socks so that ticks do not crawl under clothing. 2. Do daily tick checks for you and your family, especially if you have spent a lot of time outside in grassy or wooded areas. Remember the ticks that carry these illnesses are very small, and their bites are painless so you must look closely. 3. Use bug spray that contains DEET. (Do not use a bug spray that contains more than 30% DEET.) Avoid using DEET on infants or small children. 4. Check your pets for ticks and ask your vet about the best tick prevention treatment to use. 5. Keep brush and leaves cleared from your yard. 6. Anyone who thinks that they may have symptoms of a tick-borne disease should contact their healthcare provider.

Babesiosis is a malaria-related illness and most often, people do not have any symptoms of the disease. Sometimes, people could experience fatigue, fever, malaise, jaundice or anemia. The elderly, people who are immunocompromised or people who have had a spleenectomy are at an increased risk for complications from babesiosis. This summer, there has been an increase in hospitalizations due to babesiosis. Symptoms of ehrlichiosis include fever, persistent headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people may experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough and joint aches. The elderly, people who are immunocompromised, people with diabetes or people with collagen vascular disease are at an increased risk for complications from ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of Lyme Disease include fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and the characteristic "bullseye rash which may occur shortly after the tick bite" (erythema migrans).