Diseases from mosquito, tick, flea bites more than tripled from 2004 — CDC

May 02, 2018, 04:30
Diseases from mosquito, tick, flea bites more than tripled from 2004 — CDC

Illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites more than tripled in the US from 2004 to 2016.

For their study, CDC scientists analyzed reports of 16 insect-borne diseases logged to the U.S. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System between 2004 and 2016. Most of the pathogens are transmitted to humans from animals, such as rodents or birds, "making them hard or impossible to eliminate", the report said. Overseas travel and commerce are also increasingly common, and someone infected with a mosquito-borne disease like Zika in one country can unknowingly transport it home. Differences in distribution and transmission dynamics of tickborne and mosquitoborne diseases are often rooted in biologic differences of the vectors. Puerto Rico experienced four dengue outbreaks, the worst hitting in 2010 and from 2012 to 2013.

Also, Lyme disease accounted for 82% of tick-borne diseases during this time period, they wrote in "Vital Signs", in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The illnesses include Lyme Disease, West Nile virus, Zika virus, Dengue fever and plague. "Malaria and yellow fever are no longer transmitted in the United States but have the potential to be reintroduced".

When asked if the temperature increases were due to climate change, Petersen declined to comment, telling reporters, "that's the job of meteorologists".

"These diseases are very weather-dependent", he said. He added that increasing temperatures can expand the range of ticks further north.

And new infections can arrive at any moment. Petersen said higher temperatures also raise the risk for mosquito-borne diseases.

"Because travel and trade have been increasing, the number of disease coming to our shores have increased as well". Diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika viruses, were nearly exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They reported on data from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. A recent survey of mosquito control agencies found that 84 percent needed help with basics like surveillance and pesticide-resistance testing, Petersen said.

Congress has provided some funding to fight vector-borne diseases - almost $37,000 in 2018. The data "substantially underestimate disease occurrence", the report said.

"Our nation is better prepared today than we were a year ago", Redfield said.

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.

"The presence of vectors with proven or possible capacity to transmit a wide range of pathogens leaves the United States susceptible to outbreaks of exotic vector-borne diseases", the report said.

The report published Tuesday says there are likely many more cases that go unreported or unrecognized.

Wear long-sleeve shirts and long trousers.

Treat items, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, added that people also need to protect themselves from mosquito and tick bites in the first place.

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.

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