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Tick-Borne Disease Babesiosis Spreads In Hudson Valley

BRIARCLIFF, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- There's a new disease in the spotlight along with Lyme disease and West Nile. It has health officials in the area on high alert.

Jacqueline Moore loves the outdoors even though it almost killed her.

"All my internal organs were starting to break down. My skin was turning yellow. My liver was breaking down," Moore told CBS 2's Josh Landis.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams: Babesiosis Can Be Fatal


Moore didn't know it, but she had a bad case of a tick-born disease called babesiosis.

"It was horrible. At home, it just started out with just lots of aches, and the fevers were terrible, exhaustion," Jackie told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. "Everyday, I would literally wake up twice as tired as I was the day before, and then, in the hospital, the headaches were severe."

Babesiosis is caused by a parasite from the same ticks that spread Lyme disease, but unlike Lyme disease, there is no bull's-eye rash to identify it.

It's known in medical circles as the American form of malaria and deer are spreading it fast.

Dr. Julie Joseph of New York Medical College said it's up 20-fold in some areas since 2001.

"Patients can present with fever, chills, muscle aches. The symptoms tend to be vague and non-specific," Dr. Joseph said.

Moore said she was bitten by a tick while picking raspberries behind a stone wall. She was affected more than most patients because her spleen was removed years ago, compromising her immunity. She said everyone needs to be on guard.

You don't need to avoid the outdoors altogether. After all, it's spring. But if you find yourself in a wooded area or a place with lots of high grass, use bug spray on the areas that come in contact with grass or shrubs. It's also a good idea, once you go back inside, to take a shower within two hours to wash off any potential creepy crawlies.

"There's no reason for people to go crazy, but we want to make the public aware this disease is emerging," Dr. Joseph said.

Moore said she now checks herself, her husband, two kids and dog religiously.

"If you know you get bit by a tick, mark the date on the calendar, look for the symptoms and find a good doctor to work with," Moore said.

And if you have a fever or unexplained aches, call the doctor.

People in the city aren't immune just because they're surrounded by concrete. If you spend any time in nature at all, you need to make sure you check yourself for ticks.

According to a recent study, there were just six cases of Babesiosis in the lower Hudson Valley a decade ago.

That number has grown to well over 100 cases per year.

Does this have you concerned about warm-weather fun? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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