Babesia microti is a protozoan parasite that lives in red blood cells. You can get it from a tick bite and it can be deadly.
“In the Northeast, we have several species of Babesia,“ said Rita Rhoads, a nurse practitioner for Integrative Health Consults.
Rhoads specializes in tick-borne illnesses. She says cases of Babesia have continued to increase at her practice since ABC27 first interviewed her in 2017.
“Rather than saying I have 10 or 20 cases a year, I could have several new cases every month,“ said Rhoads.
Babesia can be transmitted through blood donations and there are already documented cases.
The American Red Cross has been screening blood donations for Babesia Microti in endemic states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In its most recent report, the Red Cross screened 506,540 donations and 1,299 were found positive for the parasite.
The FDA says the tests prevented the release of hundreds of potentially infectious donations and demonstrated the tests are effective. As a result, the FDA approved the first tests to screen for tickborne parasites in blood donations and plasma to protect the U.S. blood supply
“A vast improvement than what we had before,“ said Rhoads.
According to the most recent study published in February, transfusion cases of Babesia are emerging in states like Pennsylvania. However, there are no statistics to be found. According to the CDC, Babesia is a notifiable disease. However, the state Department of Health says “Babesia at this time is not a reportable condition in Pennsylvania, so we do not have data on the number of cases.“
“If you don’t know how many cases there are, you do not know how big the problem is, and I think it’s very important for the state of Pennsylvania to start tracking Babesia,“ said Rhoads. “Screen the blood supply and certainly make everything reportable. It is very different to have one case and have 100 cases. That is a very different scenario.“
The American Red Cross says screening for Babesia is currently not done in Pennsylvania. A time frame for when that will happen was not available.