CDC says bug-borne illnesses on the rise

Image for representational purpose only

Image for representational purpose only

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. Additionally, about 80 percent of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities.

"Zika, West Nile, Lyme and chikungunya - a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick or flea - have confronted the United States in recent years, making a lot of people sick", CDC chief Robert Redfield said. While Petersen noted that tick-borne diseases are going up steadily, with an increase in cases every single year, he described mosquito-borne diseases as more "episodic", going up and down over time.

The most common tick-borne diseases in 2016 were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, a serious illness that infects white blood cells.

A graph showing the rise in reported illnesses from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas in the United States.

These numbers likely far underestimate the true disease burden from these organisms, the report notes, because people don't always seek care for the infections, which is how the CDC captures the data.

There were nine vector-borne human diseases that were reported for the first time in the USA from 2004 to 2016.

The CDC report mentions the complex impact of the environment on vector-borne disease epidemiology, including the effect of rainfall, temperature and shelter on the "longevity, distribution, biting habits, and propagation of vectors, which ultimately affect the intensity of transmission", but it does not specifically mention rising global temperatures. Since 2004, at least nine such diseases have been newly discovered or introduced into the United States.

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. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness, and the CDC researchers found the area where Lyme disease exposure is a risk has been growing in recent years.

"Cases of these diseases have more than tripled in the United States and there are several reasons why we are seeing these increases", Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC's director said during a news briefing Tuesday.

"These diseases are very weather-dependent", he said.

Government efforts to prevent vector-borne diseases include the funding of states and territories to detect and respond to infections and the development of improved diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatment for these diseases, the CDC said.

Agencies can also train vector control staff on core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities. "Like our patients, we are looking for answers, too". Better control of mosquitoes and ticks is needed to protect people from these costly and deadly diseases.

Residents can also learn how to prevent bites and control germs spread by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas in their communities, including the use of insect repellent. "It's also advisable to apply a repellent such as permethrin to socks, boots, trousers and tents, to further repel ticks". "Make sure to look in warm, hidden places including armpits, nape of the neck, your belly button, pubic areas and behind your knees".

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about insect-borne diseases.

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