Husband dies of little-known disease caused by deer tick in Pennsylvania

Friday, September 22, 2017
Husband dies of disease caused by deer tick in Bucks County
Husband dies of disease caused by deer tick in Bucks County. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on September 21, 2017.

BUCKS COUNTY, Pennsylvania -- A Pennsylvania woman is sharing her family's story on how she lost her husband to a disease she'd never heard of that is spread by ticks.

Crissy Naticchia is still in shock. Her fun-loving husband Jeff died nearly two months ago from an infection spread by a tiny deer tick.

"It's going to be a long, hard road ahead. I mean we had so much to do. He was only 50," she said.

In late July, Jeff came down with a fever, sweating and fatigue. At the hospital, Crissy says it took several days for doctors to make the diagnosis. It was Babesiosis.

Doctor Neil Fishman with Penn Medicine didn't treat Jeff, but he specializes in infectious diseases.

He says Babesiosis is transmitted by the same tick as Lyme disease.

Many people infected won't have symptoms, but for others they will.

"The problem is the disease can get very severe if people don't have a normal immune system," Dr. Fishman said.

That includes people on chemotherapy, transplant recipients, elderly and anyone without a spleen.

Crissy says Jeff had his spleen removed as a child, but it never caused any problems.

"In 26 years, he'd been sick maybe twice," she said.

Now she and their children Nicole and Max are hoping to raise awareness about Babesiosis.

It's considered reportable, and tracked by many state health departments including, New Jersey and Delaware, but not Pennsylvania.

Doctor Fishman says it's relatively rare in the state, but could be emerging.

"As you said we are seeing more and more Lyme disease in certain parts of the state, so we may start to see an increase in babesiosis," he said.

Crissy added, "We live in Bucks County, across from a state park, there's ticks everywhere. I want people to know, it's not just Lyme. There's other horrible diseases that are carried by ticks."

The best prevention is insect repellent with DEET, long pants or sleeves, and to check your body for ticks after you've been outside in a park or in the


In the case of Babesiosis, if ticks are removed within 24 hours, they cannot transmit the disease. However, there are other tick-borne illnesses that can be spread faster.

It's always a good idea to consult with your physician if you have any concerns.