Warning after death from tick-borne illness
by: Adam Cresswell
From: The Australian
March 19, 2012 12:00AM
RESEARCHERS are urging doctors to watch out for signs of a potentially fatal tick-borne illness after the first recorded Australian case of the disease resulted in the multi-organ failure and death of a 56-year-old man.
The illness, called babesiosis, is said to be fatal in 5 to 10 per cent of severe cases.
It appears the victim, from the NSW south coast, had been harbouring the parasite responsible for several months before it was detected towards the end of a four-month hospital stay.
Doctors who investigated the case say while babesiosis is known to occur in cattle and dogs in Australia, the emergence of the first Australian-acquired human case suggests health workers should familiarise themselves with the symptoms of the disease.
Signs of babesiosis include anaemia, fever, flu-like symptoms and abnormally low numbers of blood platelets that trigger clotting.
They also say the spread of babesiosis to humans raises questions for how blood products are screened, as there have been overseas cases of the disease being transmitted through blood transfusions.
Writing in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia published today, the researchers say the man, who died in Canberra Hospital last April, was initially hospitalised the previous November after a car accident and was treated for severe kidney, liver and bone injuries.
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