CDC: Diseases from mosquitoes, ticks on the rise

CDC report Illnesses from mosquito tick flea bites more than tripled from 2004-2016

West Nile virus is the most common infection spread by mosquitoes in the U.S. It was introduced in NY in 1999 and has since spread across the continent, causing annual epidemics, Petersen said. Mosquitoes and ticks and the germs they spread are increasing in number and moving into new areas. Differences in distribution and transmission dynamics of tickborne and mosquitoborne diseases are often rooted in biologic differences of the vectors.

"Lyme patients are treated in an outpatient setting, so outpatient disease is underreported to a certain extent", Petersen said, but added that even though all the cases are not reported, it's not necessary that every case is counted. The actual burden is thought to be "substantially higher", researchers wrote. In that same 13-year period, cases of these diseases tripled, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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 USA, with West Nile in 1999, chikungunya in 2014, and Zika in 2016. Tick-transmitted diseases are more likely to affect Northeastern states.

They include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, rabbit fever and Powassan virus. 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.

Humans have a hard time controlling creatures like ticks and mosquitoes, and that has made it difficult to stop the spread of many of these diseases, especially the tick-borne ones, which are responsible for the biggest part of the case increase.

"Many of these diseases are sensitive to temperatures", Dr. Peterson said. "Increasing temperatures will tend to expand the ranges of these ticks further north as well as increasing the length of tick season".

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

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.

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Redfield said the growing burden of vector-borne disease has increased the demand on these organizations and said the CDC must continue to support and enhance their ability to combat them.

Train vector control staff on 5 core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities.

"Our nation is better prepared today than we were a year ago", Redfield said. "Second, CDC is working with state and local health departments to build or rebuild comprehensive vector programs that have eroded over time", he said.

Commenting on the CDC report, Paul Auwaerter, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, called for more research money for diagnostics, vaccines and treatments for Zika, Lyme disease, and other serious vector-borne diseases.

"We are also investigating how climate change may impact the spread of vector-borne diseases so that we can take appropriate actions to protect public health", he said. "With summer approaching, we know that we are vulnerable to disease spread by [these vectors]".

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

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

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