CDC: Tick, Mosquito-Borne Infections Surge in US

- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites tripled in the USA from 2004 to 2016. "And we don't know what will threaten Americans next".

CDC officials said the United States is unprepared for a rise in illnesses caused by the bites of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. "Major outbreaks of West Nile virus in the United States have all happened during heatwaves; it tends to make mosquitoes more infectious". This includes a doubling of diseases transmitted by ticks, which in turn accounted for 60 percent of all vector-borne diseases, he said.

Why? Mosquitoes and ticks - and the germs they spread - are moving into new areas of the country, putting more people at risk for infection.

"We are also investigating how climate change may impact the spread of vector-borne diseases so that we can take appropriate actions to protect public health", he said.

This was the case during the 2016 Zika outbreak, which began in Brazil and spread to other parts of South and North America after mosquitoes bit infected travelers who unknowingly brought the virus home.

Tick-borne diseases in particular are not reported or recognized, so it is hard to estimate their cost and burden, noted Lyle Petersen, MD, director, vector-borne diseases at the CDC, on a media call.

Data have shown that Zika, once thought to be a benign virus, has caused numerous birth defects in the U.S. Zika and West Nile, which has caused epidemics since it was first introduced in the 1999, were the most commonly reported mosquito-borne diseases in the continental U.S.

Overall, the researchers tallied a little more than 642,600 cases of disease transmitted by insect bites between 2004 and 2016.

Hoover over each state to see the disease cases for mosquitoes and ticks. The diseases they carry vary by region, and those regions are expanding.

As a group, these diseases in the United States are notable for their wide geographical distribution and resistance to control. Dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses were nearly exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The only reportable illness spread by flea bites is plague, which is still relatively rare in the United States, causing between three and 17 cases each year during the study period, the report said.

These findings are in the latest Vital Signs report by the CDC. State and local health departments and vector control organizations are the nation's main defense against this increasing threat.

Train vector control staff on 5 core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities.

And new infections can arrive at any moment.

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. "Like our patients, we are looking for answers, too".

Warm weather brings out mosquitoes and triggers the northward movement of ticks, which are most prevalent in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

"This includes wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, and making sure you use a proper insect repellent, especially when walking in wooded and grassy areas, where the risk for tick bites is significantly increased", Glatter said.

  • Santos West