The biggest threats to humans posed by ticks are the viral, bacterial and protozoal pathogens they harbor, health experts say.
Filmmaker Glenn Andreiev, 56, of Kings Park, knows all too well the consequences that a tick bite can cause. He was diagnosed in June with babesiosis, a malaria-like infection transmitted via the bugs.
Andreiev is almost certain he was bitten while tramping through the woods, scouting for a perfect spot to stage a film segment. He did not take proper precautions against ticks that are recommended by public health officials, such as staying out of brushy areas, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and using insect repellent that has DEET or picaridin.
“I didn’t check myself for ticks” after returning home, Andreiev said in a recent interview. “I had walked through wooded areas in Kings Park and Muttontown Preserve. I was also in Blydenburgh County Park, but I stayed on the path there.”
He was hospitalized for nearly a week in early June at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown after being rushed there by ambulance. The infection, which quickly worsened, was caused by a protozoan called Babesia microti, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These parasites are similar to those that cause malaria and infiltrate red blood cells, causing the cells’ destruction.
Andreiev initially wrote off his illness as a seasonal annoyance until he was swamped by a constellation of symptoms and overwhelming fatigue.
He said his memory became so foggy that he hardly remembers events surrounding his ambulance trip and hospital admission. Doctors prescribed the antiparasitic atovaquone, the same drug often recommended to treat malaria.
Andreiev said he feels great now and has resumed work on his films.
The tick named Ixodes scapularis, the same bug that transmits Lyme disease, can spread the babesiosis parasite, said Dr. Scott Campbell, chief of the Arthropod-borne Disease Laboratory in Yaphank, a division of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
Ixodes also is known as the deer tick, or blacklegged tick. The deer tick and Lone Star ticks are two species commonly found on Long Island, with the American dog tick as the third, Campbell said.
The rare, tick-borne Powassan virus — which is potentially deadly — also has infected people in the Northeast, including in upstate New York and Connecticut. People who contract the virus usually get flu-like symptoms, such as a headache and fever, along with muscle aches and pains.
Three people in upstate Saratoga County recently became infected with Powassan, which is transmitted by at least three types of ticks. One person died, Saratoga County officials said.
In Connecticut, an infant recovered from a severe case of the virus after he was bitten last fall.
The Powassan virus has not been found on Long Island, Campbell said.