Diseases From Ticks and Mosquitoes Have Tripled

Illnesses from ticks and mosquitoes like Lyme, Zika, and Dengue are hitting 'astronomical levels' — and this may be just the beginning

Illnesses from ticks and mosquitoes like Lyme, Zika, and Dengue are hitting 'astronomical levels' — and this may be just the beginning

Diseases transmitted by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes are becoming more risky and far more numerous: Between 2004 and 2016, they tripled to almost 650,000 cases, a new CDC report finds. Zika was the most common disease borne 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.

"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 U.S.in recent years, making a lot of people sick", CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. Additionally, about 80 percent of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities.

The Lone Star tick, which has been expanding its range throughout Long Island's Suffolk County, is a native of Southern U.S. states, but shorter winters and longer warm seasons have allowed the tick to firmly establish itself in the region, infectious disease experts at Stony Brook University said at a symposium on tick-borne illnesses two weeks ago. For example, they cited a recent estimate of approximately 300,000 annual cases of Lyme disease - up to 10 times the number reported to the NNDSS.

Ticks and mosquitoes and fleas, oh my.

Climate change, although not explicitly mentioned in the report, is thought to be a major factor in the spread of vectorborne illnesses, especially Lyme disease, as ticks move northward into areas that were previously too cold for their survival.

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. Overall, more than 640,000 cases of these so-called vector-borne diseases were reported during the study period. The data "substantially underestimate disease occurrence", the report said.

Other factors, including an increase in worldwide travel and more people living near wildlife, also affect the spread of these diseases, Petersen said.

Cases of tick-borne disease more than doubled, and accounted for more than three-quarters of all vector-borne disease, reported Ronald Rosenberg, ScD, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues.

The CDC said it is likely that the 640,000 cases of bug-borne illnesses grossly understates the actual number of cases around the USA because many other cases are never diagnosed or treated properly.

These diseases pose "an increasing risk" and the "nation needs to be better prepared to face this public health threat", said the report. "Second, CDC is working with state and local health departments to build or rebuild comprehensive vector programs that have eroded over time", he said.

The CDC says people who travel and do business overseas can unknowingly bring home mosquito-borne diseases like Zika. "We support boosting resources for research and development leading to improved diagnostics for Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases by the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority". "Time and again, we see patients seeking care that will help ease their suffering".

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