Health Care

CDC: Insect-borne illnesses on the rise

CDC: Insect-borne illnesses on the rise

"Almost everyone has been bitten by a mosquito, tick, or flea", the CDC report states.

But the department says 99 percent of all tick-borne diseases reported in Vermont are caused by the black-legged tick. And the diseases these pests can carry have tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016.

"We certainly don't preclude that that's happening", lead study author Ronald Rosenberg of the CDC's Division of Vector Borne Diseases said in an interview.

West Nile virus was the most commonly transmitted mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States, with its most notable epidemic occurring in 2012, especially in Texas.

Dr. Lyle Petersen, the agency's director of vector-borne diseases, said that "the numbers on some of these diseases have gone to astronomical levels".

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During the 2004-2016 period, 9 vector-borne human diseases were reported for the first time from within the United States and USA territories.

The Upper Midwestern Regional Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease plans to unveil a new smartphone app that will help them track tick exposure in high-risk areas for Lyme disease. Its latest "Vital Signs" report explains that reported cases of insect-borne disease like dengue, Zika, and Lyme have soared from 27,000 in 2004 to 96,000 in 2016.

Mosquito-borne diseases are the best-known vector-borne diseases but other vectors are ticks, flies, fleas, and some freshwater snails.

Researchers also discovered nine new germs that are spread by mosquitoes, according to the CDC.

"Interest in travel for example, the world is getting smaller, people are traveling from here to there there to here in no time pretty much very rapidly", Behura said.

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Warmer summer temperatures also tend to bring outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, Petersen said.

But the bottom line is that scientists don't completely understand why there are more ticks or why more ticks are carrying diseases. "Because tick activity depends on temperatures being above a certain minimum, shorter winters could also extend the period when ticks are active each year, increasing the time that humans could be exposed to Lyme disease".

According to the CDC, ticks are responsible for the lion's share of bug-bite related illnesses that causing up to 50,000 cases annually. The majority of those illnesses are Lyme disease.

"It's something we're certainly concerned with and we're aware of, but there's no simple answer to the question", Rosenberg said. "West Nile virus was introduced to New York City around 1999", says Rosenberg. The report says that of all the infections, those transmitted by ticks were most common (75 percent).

"So it shows how vulnerable we are if the vectors are there in sufficient concentration, and we have not seen the disease before in the population, it can be a fairly profound epidemic", he said.

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