There have been seven confirmed cases of a tick-borne illness confirmed in Ocean County so far this season, but it's not Lyme Disease.

 

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Babesiosis is spread by the nymph stage of the black-legged tick, or deer tick, and attacks the red blood cells.  Ocean County Health Department Director of Administration and Programs Victoria Miragliotta says certain groups of people are extremely susceptible.

"It can be life-threatening to the elderly, those without a spleen, those with weakened immune diseases and the very young," Miragliotta said.

The disease causes flu-like symptoms that can include fever, chills, body and headaches, sweating, loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue.  6 of the 7 confirmed cases in Ocean County required hospitalization.

Health Officer Matt Csick suggests taking steps to protect yourself and your family by using insect repellents containing DEET and avoiding brushy or overgrown areas.

"If you're going to take a hike, you can take that hike," Csick said.  "But maybe stay on the trail, stay in the center of the trail."

Csick also recommends wearing light-colored clothing to make the tiny ticks easier to spot, and tucking your pants into your socks to keep ticks off your skin.  If you do get bitten, Csick says you should try to preserve the tick in alcohol so you can show it to your doctor.