A new study found that cases of the tick-borne disease babesiosis rose at a steeper rate in Maine than in all other states except Vermont in recent years.

According to the study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babesiosis cases in Maine rose more than 1,400% in an eight-year span, from nine cases in 2011 to 138 cases in 2019. The parasitic disease occurs primarily in the Northeast and Midwest.

Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire should all now be considered to have endemic transmission of the disease and more emphasis should be put on tick-prevention education and risk awareness, according to the CDC.

Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Most cases are transmitted through bites from deer ticks. Many people who have babesiosis have no symptoms, while others experience flu-like symptoms. It can be fatal, however, particularly for people who are immunocompromised or don’t have a spleen.

The first case of babesiosis in a human was identified in 1969 on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. Until now, the CDC considered it endemic in seven states.

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended screening blood donations in 15 states or jurisdictions where residents are considered at high risk of infection, including all New England states.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to avoid babesiosis it to prevent tick bites by using repellant, wearing protective clothing and doing daily tick checks.

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