CDC: Illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites on the rise

DISEASES

Diseases like Lyme disease, Zika, Dengue, and West Nile that are spread by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas tripled in the USA between 2004 and 2016, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika was the most common disease transmitted by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas reported in 2016, with 41,680 cases reported, followed by Lyme disease, with 36,429 cases, nearly double the number in 2004.

Authors of the report stressed that out of 16 reportable vector-borne diseases, only 1 of them-yellow fever-has a vaccine that individuals can use to protect themselves against infection, which is particularly troublesome as the burden of these diseases continues to grow. Mosquitoes and ticks and the germs they spread are increasing in number and moving into new areas.

A graph showing the rise in reported illnesses from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas in the United States. "With the warm weather and summer travel rapidly approaching, we know that we are vulnerable to these diseases".

Although state and local health departments get brief infusions of cash during scares like the 2016 Zika epidemic, they are chronically underfunded.

Recent research has suggested that Lyme disease alone strikes up to 300,000 Americans every year, as much as 10-times higher than the number of diagnoses actually made.

The most common mosquito-borne viruses are West Nile, dengue and Zika, while the most common disease resulting from an infected flea's bite is the plague.

Mosquito-borne infections are most likely to hit sunnier states and territories. In 2016, the most common tickborne diseases in the USA were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis.

The number of reported tickborne diseases more than doubled in 13 years and accounted for more than 60 percent of all reported mosquito-borne, tickborne, and fleaborne disease cases.

They include two previously unknown, life-threatening tick-borne viruses - Heartland and Bourbon - that were reported from the Midwest, and the chikungunya and Zika viruses transmitted by mosquitoes that were introduced to Puerto Rico in 2014 and 2015.

Environmental factors, such as rainfall and temperature, also affect the breeding and biting habits of these many different species.

"The data show that we're seeing a steady increase and spread of tickborne diseases, and an accelerating trend of mosquito-borne diseases introduced from other parts of the world", said Lyle Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

"What I can say is that any of these diseases are very sensitive to temperatures, so when there are increasing temps, it promotes several things", Petersen said.

"The mosquito-borne diseases tend to get worse during heat waves". As a result, more people are at risk for infection.

State and local health departments and vector control organizations need help combating the spread of these pests, the report concluded.

Petersen said that federal programs are increasing funding for those organizations.

"It will take all of us to prevent this", Dr. Redfield stressed.

Paul Auwaerter, MD, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said vector-borne diseases "can devastate patients and their families, causing significant suffering", and that the IDSA urges Congress to increase funding for surveillance and prevention efforts, including resources to support finding the best prevention methods.

Experts warn that climate change can exacerbate many public health threats, including diseases spread by insects and other animals that thrive in warmer conditions.

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