Tick, mosquito infections spreading rapidly, CDC finds
- Author: Jermaine Castillo May 02, 2018,
May 02, 2018, 1:40
West Nile virus (WNV) was the most commonly transmitted mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States, according to the report, followed by dengue and Zika virus. Plus, new vectors, like a tick from Asia that was recently found in New Jersey for the first time, continue to appear and may bring new diseases.
The number of illnesses in the us caused by mosquito, tick and flea bites has made a dramatic jump in the last decade, raising concerns that a changing climate could lead to more widespread viral outbreaks. Overall, more than 640,000 cases of these so-called vector-borne diseases were reported during the study period. That's according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published today (May 1).
West Nile virus was the most common form of mosquito-borne illness, Petersen said, but there has been a recent "accelerating trend" of mosquito-borne disease being introduced to the US, with West Nile in 1999, chikungunya in 2014, and Zika in 2016. Plague, albeit rare, was noted as the most common flea-borne disease. Similarly, only 840 cases of West Nile virus were diagnosed in 2016, but data suggests as many as 91,000 Americans may have been infected but not diagnosed.
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.
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From 2004 to 2016, diseases from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas tripled.
After looking at data reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS), the researchers found that tick-borne diseases made up over 75% of reports.
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. And the germs that have been discovered in recent years also add to the number of reported vector-borne diseases in the United States, the CDC said. Petersen said higher temperatures also raise the risk for mosquito-borne diseases.
"Many of these diseases are sensitive to temperatures", Dr. Peterson said.
Tick and mosquito season is coming - and it could be bad. "For tick-borne disease, increasing temperatures will tend to expand the range of these ticks farther north as well as increasing the length of tick season".
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The most common tick-borne diseases in 2016 were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, a serious illness that infects white blood cells.
CDC officials said the United States is unprepared for a rise in illnesses caused by the bites of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.
Petersen said that federal programs are increasing funding for those organizations.
With added support, these agencies can better test for and track diseases and pests, train staff to conduct prevention and control activities, and educate the public on how to prevent bites, the researchers said.
"It will take all of us to prevent this", Dr. Redfield stressed.
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As the number of vector-borne cases continues to increase, the burden on local and state health departments has grown as well.