Middlesex County: A Babesiosis Hot Spot?

LymeDiseaseCyclebyTickEncounterYou most definitely know what Lyme disease is if you live in Central Massachusetts. Transmitted by deer ticks, you may not have experienced Lyme directly, but the epidemic proportion to which this disease exists within our area has created broad public awareness. What you may not be aware of are the other tick-borne diseases that are transmitted in Middlesex County and Worcester County. Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Powassan Virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to name a few.

Babesiosis in Middlesex County Mass

Among the plethora of tick-borne diseases spread by deer ticks is Babesiosis. While relatively rare, this disease is mostly found in the Northeastern and the Midwestern United States. So much so, that the CDC reports 95% of Babesiosis cases in the US in 2013 occurred in only seven states; including Massachusetts. While Massachusetts reached an all-time high with 520 confirmed and probable cases of Babesiosis in 2014, we still have had a large number of cases of Babesiosis in 2015 with 445 confirmed and probable. Middlesex County was among the top 5 counties in the state with 65 cases of Babesiosis in 2015.

While there is some growth in awareness of Babesiosis in our area, there is a great deal of important data the public needs to be reminded of to help prevent Babesiosis and recognize it. Disclaimer before reading further: anyone can become sick from Babesiosis during any month of the year.

Seasonality of Babesiosis in Central Massachusetts

Tick-borne diseases have a predictable peak season due to the tick life cycle. For most tick-borne diseases, larval and nymph ticks have to have their first blood meal to become infected. The known exception is Borrelia Miyamotoi which can be passed from a tick mother to her offspring. For Babesiosis, this first blood meal is essential to becoming infected, making June, July, and August more common for the spread of the disease than other months of the year.

Health Dangers of Babesiosis

Babesiosis is a parasite transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick. Many people who have Babesiosis feel fine and have no symptoms. Others experience flu-like illness or severe, life-threatening illness if Babesiosis infects the red blood cells. The variety of symptoms felt can also be tricky, Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported the symptoms of 2015 Massachusetts’ cases as:

  • 72% fatigue
  • 68% fever
  • 58% depression
  • 50% muscle aches
  • 49% chills

Babesiosis is Discriminatory

While anyone can become ill from Babesiosis, clinical illness from Babesiosis is more common among a certain portion of the population. Those age 60 or older are at the greatest risk for clinical disease. Also, those without a spleen, weakened immune system, or those with other serious health issues such as liver or kidney disease. Note the chart below; there is a clear age discrimination for the onset of clinical illness from Babesiosis in Massachusetts 2015 cases. If you are within this high-risk category, you should be taking extra precautions to avoid deer ticks, especially during the peak seasons as shown above.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

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Central Massachusetts Faces Increasing Threat from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The American dog tick

The American dog tick

Rocky Mountain Spotted fever (RMSF) is so far not as common in Massachusetts as Lyme disease. This can make it extra dangerous as physicians and patients do not readily know the risks, signs, and symptoms. Usually, RMSF is spread by the dog tick, but it can also be spread by the wood tick and lone star tick. With the lone star tick recently spreading into the Northeast, Massachusetts residents have more chances for transmitting the potentially fatal illness.

What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

The bacteria Rickettsia rickettsi causes the illness known as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). Transmitted by the bite of an infected tick, symptoms are non-specific and can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain, lack of appetite, red eyes, and a characteristic rash. It is important to remember that the combination of these symptoms will vary from case to case.

Rocky_Mountain_spotted_fever_RASHAccording to the CDC, about 90% of people with RMSF will have some type of rash, but some do not develop it until late in the illness – after treatment should have already begun. Diagnosing RMSF can be delayed if you are waiting for the rash to appear. The CDC recommends that physicians administer treatment with antibiotics if RMSF is suspected. Early treatment is vital to limiting long term effects and avoiding potential death.

Late diagnosis and treatment can result in long-term health problems. The infection affects the cells that line the blood vessels. Damage to those blood vessels can cause bleeding or clotting in the brain or other vital organs. A loss of blood flow to the extremities can also occur leading to potential amputations of fingers, toes or limbs. Long-term permanent neurological effects and damage to internal organs can occur if this type of vascular damage occurs.

RMSF Can Be Deadly if Not Treated

Lone Star Tick

Lone Star Tick

Case fatality rates for Rocky Mountain Spotted fever are improving. It is suspected that improved recognition and diagnostics have led to quicker treatment and the decline in death rates. The CDC reports a 28% case fatality rate in 1944 that has lowered to approximately 1% in 2001. Children under 10-years-old, American Indians and those with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk for a fatal outcome from RMSF. The National Center for Biotechnology Information says “a delay in administration of doxycycline, the recommended drug of choice, has been shown to increase the likelihood of [a] fatal outcome.”

A recent story in the Cape Cod Times chronicled the story of a 6-year-old girl who came all too close to losing her life as she and her family struggled to get a diagnosis of her severe ailment. First diagnosed as a sinus infection and then an allergic reaction to the treatment, it wasn’t until Alaina was sent by MedFlight to Boston Children’s Hospital that she was finally diagnosed with RMSF after a few days. Suffering from meningitis and meningoencephalitis, Alaina has recovered, but it was a long road.

At Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts, this is a great summation of why we work diligently to educate our community. Simply knowing the risks for exposure and the variety of symptoms to watch for can save a life. Can save many lives. Make sure you know the symptoms of RMSF and tell your doctor immediately if you suspect it.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

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A Rare & Dangerous Tick Disease is Present in Massachusetts’ Ticks

deer-ticks-spread-powassan-virus-massachusettsAs if we didn’t have enough worries about ticks in Massachusetts with Lyme disease reaching epidemic proportion in the area, we now have more cause for concern about ticks. The Powassan Virus is a rare but dangerous tick-borne disease that is currently residing within the deer tick population on Cape Cod.

While you might immediately think that Cape Cod is too far away to be of concern, you should know that incidents of Powassan Virus occurred right here in Middlesex County just last year. In fact, if you choose Massachusetts and POW from the menus on this easy to use CDC map viewer for mosquito-borne disease rates, you’ll find Middlesex County has been the most common County for Powassan incidents in the last few years in Massachusetts with 4 cases in 3 years.

What is the Powassan Virus?

Spread by a tick bite, from an infected deer tick, the Powassan Virus is commonly asymptomatic. However, for those who do become ill from Powassan Virus, it can be quite serious. Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures. As Powassan can infect the central nervous system, encephalitis and meningitis can be the resulting illness. About 50% of survivors of Powassan virus will experience permanent neurological symptoms such as recurring headaches, memory problems, and muscle wasting. The mortality rate for Powassan virus is about 10%.  With no treatment or vaccine, it is essential to see a doctor immediately if you suspect Powassan Virus is making you ill.

Powassan Virus in Massachusetts

According to the Cape Cod Chronicle, tick tests from deer ticks across Cape Cod show they are currently carrying Powassan virus. While Powassan Virus in humans is much less common than Lyme, the concerns are greater for a number of reasons. First of all, the 10% mortality rate for Powassan is much higher than Lyme’s less than 1% mortality rate. Also, when it comes to Powassan virus, a tick can infect you immediately upon biting. This fact makes the end of day tick checks much less effective for lowering your risk for Powassan virus, whereas with Lyme if you remove ticks each day, you are less likely to have transmitted the bacteria.

While we regularly advocate prevention tactics, including daily tick checks; when it comes to Powassan Virus, avoiding ticks is the single best way to lower your risk.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

Visit our website to learn more about tick control for your Central Mass property. Call or email today to sign up for season long tick protection. 877-387-7823 We look forward to protecting your property this season and for many seasons to come.

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Central Mass Deer Ticks, Deer Ticks & More Deer Ticks: But Lyme is Not the Only Concern

Lyme disease is at epidemic proportions in Massachusetts, but there are other dangers lurking within the bite of a deer tick. We’ve briefly mentioned some rare but dangerous tick-borne diseases, giving more attention to some than others. It has come to our attention that the Powassan Virus, spread by the bite of an infected deer tick is gaining momentum in Massachusetts, requiring the public to gain greater awareness of symptoms and precautions.

What is the Powassan Virus?

Deer Tick StagesWith just one case of Powassan Virus reported from 2004-2013 in Massachusetts, it is quite startling to find out that 9 cases have been reported since 2013 in the Bay State. With a rare illness such as Powassan growing at such a rate, informing the community is the first step in protecting everyone. Powassan Virus is a virus spread to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick, the same tick responsible for spreading Lyme disease.

What are the Symptoms of Powassan Virus?

According to the CDC, many people infected with Powassan virus never experience symptoms. With an incubation period lasting from 1 week to 1 month, symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties or seizures. Powassan can infect the nervous system causing encephalitis and meningitis. Permanent neurological symptoms can occur and is the case with about half of patients who survive the infection. About 10% of Powassan cases will lead to death.

There are no treatments, vaccines or cures for Powassan virus, making prevention imperative. With deer ticks ranging in size from a grain of coffee to the size of the letter D on a dime, spotting an embedded tick can be extremely difficult. Without knowing you’ve been bitten, recognizing the symptoms of Powassan can also be tricky. Avoiding ticks and tick bites is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this rare but often fatal tick-borne threat.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

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New Findings For Lyme Disease Symptoms, Treatment and Long-term Effects Give Validation to Long Time Sufferers

Lyme-disease-information-MassachusettsA visiting physician to Martha’s Vineyard shared her findings of Lyme Disease, diagnosis, treatment and its effect to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital physicians and members of the public. As research is conducted and results are studied, the doctor’s doing the work learn a great deal more information than can be disseminated around the medical community immediately. It is important for areas that suffer high numbers of Lyme disease (like Massachusetts) to learn this information as quickly as possible for helping more patients.

Dr. Nevena Zubcevik joked with the physicians at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital that she would have preferred to present the information via Skype because of the large quantity of ticks in the area. For an hour, Dr. Zubcevik shared a great deal of new information related to Lyme disease, mostly focused on the 10-15% who suffer from Post Treatment Lyme disease syndrome, commonly referred to as Chronic Lyme. The information shared is a lot to grasp, but here are her top points as reported by MV Times:

  • Sudden dementia symptoms should be a red flag for Lyme. Especially in people over 50 and those with compromised immune symptoms.
  • Children present differently than adults, “71% of the time, headache is the most common symptom in children.” Mood, fatigue, and irritability are also signs in children.
  • Studies have shown that a tick can give you Anaplasmosis after 15 minutes and Powassan virus after 10 minutes. The common belief that it takes a tick being attached for 48 hours for Lyme to be transmitted is outdated.
  • Doxycycline (Lyme treatment) should be prescribed at 100-200 milligrams twice a day for 20 days. (Currently, tick bite patients might get 2 days as an insurance policy or 10 days if they are showing symptoms).
  • There are 10 different strains of Lyme in the U.S. and many do not test positive on the traditional Lyme tests (Western blot or ELISA).
  • She says “The bull’s eye rash only happens 20% of the time.” (The CDC still says it occurs in 70-80% of cases).
  • Borrelia Miyamotoi presents challenges in that it does not test positive on either Lyme test and can spread rapidly because it is transmitted from mother to offspring, making nymph deer ticks a vector, spreading it to white-footed mice and other ticks from there.
  • Doxycycline does NOT kill Borrelia burgdorferi. It stops the bacteria from replicating, and our bodies’ immune systems are responsible for killing the bacteria.

Dr. Zubcevik pushes tick prevention as the best form of protection. Dr. Zubcevik currently works with chronic Lyme patients at the Dean Center for Tick-Borne Illness at Spaulding Rehabilitation.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

Posted in Chronic Lyme Disease, Deer ticks, Lyme Disease awareness, Lyme Disease Central Mass, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ticks Present Health Dangers To Humans and Animals that Go Well Beyond Lyme Disease in Central Massachusetts

Lyme Disease tick Central MAAs Lyme Disease gets more media attention and the public becomes more aware of it, it is important to know that there are other tick-borne diseases that have similar symptoms. These diseases can affect horses and dogs as well as humans. Anaplasmosis is an emerging problem in Central Massachusetts as more and more cases are reported each year. In 2015 there were 763 cases of Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, a 26% increase from 2014. (Note: in 2014 there was an 84% increase in Anaplasmosis cases statewide.) Middlesex County lead the way with 168 cases.

What is Anaplasmosis?

Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria transmitted by an infected deer tick, the same tick that transmits Lyme disease. It can be fatal (less than 1%) if not treated properly, even in previously healthy patients.  Symptoms will vary greatly and can include headache, fever, muscle pain, depression, chills, nausea, cough, confusion, or rash (rarely). Symptoms of serious illness can include hemorrhage, difficulty breathing, renal failure or neurological problems.

Anaplasmosis Can Affect Pets Too

horse_and_dog_Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Central MassThe Concord Monitor recently reported first-hand experiences with Anaplasmosis that reminded us of the debilitating symptoms it can cause in horses. It is important to remember that our dogs and horses can be affected by most tick-borne disease too.

Symptoms of Anaplasmosis in horses can include fever, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, leg swelling, red spots on gums and eyes, jaundice and lethargy. Fatality from Anaplasmosis is rare in horses. Most recover fully after treatment with antibiotics. If your horse is showing signs of Anaplasmosis, call your veterinarian right away.

Symptoms to watch for in your dog include lameness, joint pain, fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite. In severe cases, you may see vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, labored breathing and neurological signs. If you suspect your dog has Anaplasmosis see your veterinarian. Antibiotic treatment usually leads to a full recovery.

Deer ticks can pass on a variety of pathogens to humans and animals. If you or your pets are showing symptoms, even if you doubt your exposure to ticks, see your doctor or veterinarian. Deer ticks are tiny and often bite us without our being aware.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

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Misdiagnosed As Alzheimer’s: Kris Kristofferson Suffers from Lyme Disease

Kris_KristoffersonWe still have a long way to go in testing, diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and especially Chronic Lyme disease. A recently published Rolling Stones article about Kris Kristofferson reminds us of just that. The iconic songwriter, performer, and actor has been struggling for years with memory loss that interrupted his life. He has recently been back on the scene due to a major improvement in his condition and ability to function.

Memory Loss

Physicians have been telling Kris that his increased memory loss was due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease brought on by many years of boxing, rugby and football causing many blows to the head in his teens and twenties. He was given medication for Alzheimer’s and depression and still suffering debilitating memory loss which left him forgetting what he was doing from one moment to the next.

Lyme Disease Mistaken for Alzheimers

Earlier this year a doctor decided to test the 80-year-old Kristofferson for Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. The test came back positive. As a result, he was taken off all of his other medication and given a three-week course of antibiotics. His wife says “All of a sudden he was back.” She does admit there are still some days that are a struggle, but most days she forgets he is fighting any illness what-so-ever.

Kris is back in such a big way that he has recently started recording a new album, played the lead in a new Western movie and performed at a celebration in his honor in Nashville in March. Throughout the Rolling Stones interview he does mention his continued struggle with memory loss, but for the people around him, the difference is clear.

While there is a great deal of controversy around chronic Lyme disease, its symptoms, and devastating effects, one thing is clear, those who are suffering need support. As the world becomes more aware of this tick-borne disease, how to avoid it and what the symptoms look like there is more likelihood that research will improve diagnostics and treatment. Hopefully, in time, others won’t have to suffer from misdiagnosis and delayed treatment.

Dave Macchia Mosquito Squad square 2

Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

Visit our website to learn more about tick control for your Central Mass property. Call or email today to sign up for season long tick protection. 877-387-7823 We look forward to protecting your property this season and for many seasons to come.

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What If You Became Ill and Treatment was Available But Your Health Insurance Denied Coverage of that Treatment?

Chronic-Lyme-treatment-Central-MassImagine this: you become very ill, debilitating so. For a long time, no one knows what is wrong with you. Your doctor finally discovers it is Lyme disease, and it has progressed into chronic Lyme. Your life has been interrupted with the incapacitating side effects of this disease. Treatment is available and has been known to work for others, but your health insurance refuses to cover the treatment.

Patient advocates in Massachusetts have been working for years to get legislation that will mandate health care coverage for long-term Lyme disease treatment. This year, the state budget has a proposal attached that will require health insurers to cover long-term antibiotic therapy and other therapies for Chronic Lyme disease. Most insurance plans limit antibiotic coverage to a 28-day period, which causes issues for those needed prolonged treatment. The bill includes an 18-month mandate.

There are both sides to every coin. As reported by the Lockport Journal, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans is skeptical of the benefit of long-term antibiotic treatment for chronic Lyme disease and is even skeptical of the existence of chronic Lyme disease. Patient advocates are arguing that the health care insurers simply don’t want to pay for it.

While the bill is controversial, those suffering from Chronic Lyme disease symptoms are hopeful.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best information for staying up-to-date on the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses in the Central Massachusetts area. Stay tuned for the latest local mosquito news. Don’t forget, to limit the population of mosquitoes on your property, follow the 5Ts of mosquito control.

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M.I.T. Biologist is Taking a New Approach in the Battle Against Lyme Disease

Central-Mass-Lyme-disease-tick-biteLyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is most often spread to humans by deer ticks, but the deer ticks first have to become infected. Typically the deer ticks pick up Borrelia burgdorferi from White-footed mice which they feed on as larvae or nymph ticks. When they become nymph or adult ticks, they will travel on deer who bring them to homes and yards. Massachusetts officials have long battled with the public over the idea of lowering the deer population to limit the incidence of Lyme disease. A method that is not popular among animal lovers.

Stop Lyme Disease Early in the Transmission Cycle

To appease the public, the chairman of the board of public health for Nantucket, Dr. Malcolm MacNab is proposing a new approach. He found that an evolutionary biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology wants to stop the bacteria earlier in the cycle, by starting with White-footed mice.

White footed mouse courtesy of CDC.govAs reported by the New York Times, Dr. Esvelt of M.I.T. proposed at a meeting on Nantucket Island that he could create mice which are immune to either the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria or a protein in the deer ticks’ saliva, or both. This immunity would break the transmission cycle in the earliest phase. He proposed that if he is successful in creating the Lyme immune mice, that he release them on a small uninhabited island and track the number of infected ticks. If the infected tick population is significantly reduced within a couple of years, they will release the mice on other islands, maybe Nantucket next.

While the project is not yet funded, Dr. Esvelt was gathering community support first. Starting with Nantucket was a natural idea as Dr. MacNab pointed out, nearly 40% of Nantucket residents have had Lyme disease.

Without support from a majority of Nantucket residents, Dr. Esvelt would not be willing to pursue the idea on the island. He will be presenting this idea to Martha’s Vineyard too. The public’s reaction has not yet been determined, but attendees at the meeting are curious if this could work.

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Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

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Hope in Central Massachusetts: The Land of Dangerous Tick-Borne Diseases

deer-ticks-cause-babesiosis-Central-massAs tick control experts we often have the unfortunate job of informing the public about newly discovered or newly arrived dangerous tick-borne diseases. Babesiosis, which is transmitted to humans by deer ticks, was on that list in the last few years as the number of cases began to climb and the danger of the parasite became evident. Luckily, today, we get to report some good news in the fight against tick-borne Babesiosis.

Improved Babesiosis Treatment in Central Mass

While currently treatable, Babesiosis patients have a high rate of relapse due to the parasite developing resistance. Scientists at Yale have discovered a combination therapy that has effectively cured Babesiosis in mice while also preventing recurrence. This discovery is very important as previous combination therapies were unsuccessful in targeting the enzyme that was allowing the parasite to cultivate resistance. Current treatments include a combination of Atovaquone and Azithromycin. The combination Yale has had success with is Atovaquone combined with ELQ-334. ELQ-334 works much like Atovaquone, but it targets a different enzyme for lowering risk of relapse. With the newly developed therapy, it is “nearly impossible for the parasite to develop resistance.”

As we have previously reported, Babesiosis in humans is on the rise in the northeastern United States. Massachusetts is part of a cluster of 7 states where 95% of the cases of Babesiosis were reported in 2013. According to pharmpro news, as much as 19% of ticks and 42% of mammals carrying Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) are co-infected with the B. microti parasite which causes Babesiosis. With the prevalence of Babesiosis on the rise in Central Massachusetts, news of better Babesiosis treatment couldn’t be more welcome.

Dave Macchia Mosquito Squad square 2

Dave Macchia, owner. Mosquito Squad of Central Massachusetts 877-387-7823

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.

Posted in Babesiosis, Central Mass tick control, Chelmsford tick control, Tick bites | Tagged , , | Leave a comment