VALHALLA, N.Y., July 26 (UPI) -- Babesiosis, a rare malaria-like disease commonly transmitted by infected deer ticks, is on the rise in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, doctors say.
Dr. Gary Wormser, chief of infectious diseases at Westchester Medical Center, says microscopic parasites known as Babesia infect red blood cells and cause anemia. The New York Health Department reports cases have been reported in Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan and Rockland.
The parasites are transmitted via infected deer ticks or blood transfusions.
Symptoms may begin with fatigue, loss of appetite and a general ill feeling, but as it progresses, patients may have fever, drenching sweats, muscle aches and headache, which can last for several days to several months.
"The number of cases reported annually in just this area has increased from around five in 2001 to nearly 120 in 2008," Wormser said in a statement.
"Despite the large number of Lyme disease cases in the Lower Hudson Valley for many years, babesiosis has only occurred in this area since 2001."
Some patients may be infected and not have symptoms, but patients who are older, are immunodeficient or have had their spleens removed are most susceptible, Wormser says.