CDC: Diseases from mosquitoes, ticks on the rise

Vector-borne diseases more than triple in US, CDC says
CDC: Diseases from mosquito, tick, flea bites more than tripled from 2004-2016

02 May, 2018

The number of vector-borne illnesses in the USA tripled from 2004 to 2016, rising to almost 650,000 cases, CDC researchers reported. The report notes an increasing trend in these diseases each year, whereas the burden of mosquito-borne diseases appears to be more episodic, with numbers fluctuating as epidemics occur.

The new data include only cases that have been reported by state and local health departments.

Build and sustain public health programs that test and track germs and the mosquitoes and ticks that spread them. That's according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published today (May 1). "There is a role for everyone".

The number of illnesses in the USA 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.

The most common tick-borne diseases in the United States were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis. 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.

Tickborne illnesses went from around 22,000 in 2004 to more than 48,000 in 2016.

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 recent years, making a lot of people sick", CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

Peterson also noted that an increase in deer populations in residential areas can also bring an increase of deer ticks, which can lead to more cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

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Most of the increase comes from the arrival of Zika virus in 2015 and from ticks.

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.

"Vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Zika virus disease can devastate patients and their families, causing significant suffering", said Dr. Paul Auwaerter, president of the IDSA.

Petersen would not say directly that climate change is worsening things but said hot weather is a major factor.

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.

Nathan Nieto, a biologist at Northern Arizona University who studies vector-borne pathogens, is available to discuss the CDC report on the increase in infections submitted by insects.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) seconded that conclusion, calling for more federal funding of research into the development of new vaccines to battle these diseases.

The CDC said more than 80 percent of vector-control organizations across the United States lack the capacity to prevent and control these fast-spreading, demanding illnesses. Petersen said the agency is using two strategies to better prepare the organizations to prevent and control the threats.

"We understand that Congress and the administration have many hard choices to make", he said.

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