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Diseases from mosquitoes, ticks on the rise — CDC

02 May 2018

- 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. People also carry these diseases to new places as they travel.

"The data show that we're seeing a steady increase and spread of tick-borne diseases, and an accelerating trend of mosquito-borne diseases introduced from other parts of the world", Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. 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.

"Nine new germs - seven of them spread by ticks - have been newly introduced or discovered in the United States since 2004", he added.

Cases of tick-borne diseases doubled during the study period, from about 22,500 in 2004 to about 48,600 in 2016. These diseases are spread as mosquitoes expand into new territory and are brought home by travelers. During that period, a total of more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported to the CDC.

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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.

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.

"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", said CDC director Robert Redfield. In a partnership with the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, his lab also tests ticks from throughout the United States; people who have been bitten send the tick to his lab to determine what kind of tick it is and whether it's infected with Lyme.

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. "And we don't know what will threaten Americans next". Dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses were nearly exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Warmer weather has also made tick and mosquito season longer, and mosquitoes tend to become more infectious during heat waves.

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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. CDC is working on "rebuilding comprehensive vector control programs that have eroded over time", according to the report authors, in addition to working with health departments and organizations on improving surveillance, developing guidance, and increasing public awareness regarding these diseases.

Train vector control staff on 5 core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities. "We also support funding for research to understand better how to safely and effectively treat symptoms that persist in some patients following initial antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease". "It's also advisable to apply a repellent such as permethrin to socks, boots, trousers and tents, to further repel ticks".

Educate the public about how to prevent bites and control germs spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas in their communities.

Find and remove ticks daily from family and pets.

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Diseases from mosquitoes, ticks on the rise — CDC