"These diseases are very complicated in nature", Lyle Peterson, MD, MPH, director of the division of Vector-borne Diseases at the CDC, said on a media telebriefing.
The number of illnesses caused by the bite of infected mosquitoes, ticks and fleas has more than tripled in the United States, and the country is not fully prepared to handle the increased burden, CDC officials said today. Overall, there were 642,602 cases reported, with the number of tick-borne "bacterial and protozoan diseases" rising from 22,000 in 2004 to 48,000 in 2016. In addition, during the study period, researchers identified seven tick-borne diseases that could infect people and that were either newly discovered or newly introduced to the USA, the report said. Additionally, about 80 percent of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities.
And although it's rare, plague is still transmitted by fleas.
Tick-borne diseases alone more than doubled during that time frame, and accounted for more than 3 of every 5 cases of insect-transmitted disease in the United States.
More and more Americans are being infected with diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes, federal researchers reported Tuesday.
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. Mosquitoes and ticks and the germs they spread are increasing in number and moving into new areas.
There are several factors behind the increase in these diseases, the researchers said.
As a group, these diseases in the United States are notable for their wide geographical distribution and resistance to control.
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These numbers likely far underestimate the true disease burden from these organisms, the report notes, because people don't always seek care for the infections, which is how the CDC captures the data.
While Zika stood out as the latest emerging threat in the report, it also showed a long-term increase in cases of tick-borne Lyme disease, which can attack the heart and nervous system if left untreated. "And we don't know what will threaten Americans next", CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement.
The nine new threats reported in the US since 2004 include seven new tick-borne pathogens, including the Heartland and Bourbon viruses in the Midwest and a new Borrelia species - B. mayonii - that has caused Lyme disease in the upper Midwest.
During the time covered in the study, nine new germs spread by the bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the United States, the report said.
"Vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Zika virus disease can devastate patients and their families, causing significant suffering", he told Agence France-Presse.
Government efforts to prevent vector-borne diseases include the funding of states and territories to detect and respond to infections and the development of improved diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatment for these diseases, the CDC said.
Treat items, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, with permethrin or use permethrin-treated clothing and gear. "Also check between fingers and toes, bottoms of your feet and your ankles, scalp, behind your ears and under breasts".
As people travel, they pick up new diseases and new vectors, bringing them to new places.