The Number of Vector-borne Diseases Are Climbing in The U.S.


Hot and humid weather is a major contributor to increased mosquito and tick activity. With rising temperatures in most regions of the U.S., mosquitoes and ticks will emerge earlier and in greater numbers than usual this year.

Mosquitoes and ticks are vectors (blood-feeding insects), and are known for carrying vector-borne diseases that could cause illness and death to humans. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vector-borne diseases caused by ticks and mosquitoes are “a large and growing public health problem in the United States.”

642,602 cases of vector-borne diseases were reported during 2004-2016; 96,075 cases were reported in 2016 alone, more than triple the number of 27,388 in 2014.  The commonly known vector-borne diseases are tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever; and mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile and Zika virus.

During the reported time period, Lyme diseases accounted for the majority of all tick-borne diseases at 82%. The bacteria that cause Lyme diseases are transmitted by deer ticks, a species that can be found in 43 states in the U.S. and is increasing its geographical spread gradually.

While the reported cases of tick-borne diseases rose almost every year, the number of mosquito-borne diseases were “dispersed and more punctuated by epidemics”.  There were 4,858 cases of mosquito-borne diseases reported in 2014; this number jumped up to 47,461 in 2016, mainly due to the outbreak of Zika virus.

Not only are the number of vector-borne diseases on the rise, new diseases are emerging at a fast rate. Zika virus, for example, was not introduced to the continental U.S. until July 2016. However, by October 2016, almost 4,100 cases were found in the continental U.S., and over 28,000 cases in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus have animal reservoirs, making them difficult to control. A commonly used method to control vector-borne diseases is to combine insecticide, medicines, and vaccines. However, as only the yellow fever virus has an approved vaccine, minimizing the risk of being bitten by vectors is vital.

To prevent tick bites, avoid tall grass and wooded areas, wear closed-toe shoes, and tuck your pants into socks or boots for extra skin protection. Insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 are recommended by the EPA and the CDC. After spending time outside, check your body and your pets carefully. Wearing light-colored clothing can also make ticks easier to detect.

To avoid mosquito bites, make sure you wear long sleeves and pants to shield your skin when you enjoy the outdoors, especially at dusk and dawn as they are prime biting time for mosquitoes. Wearing a bug repellant with DEET can also help to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Contact your local branch today at 855-855-4873 to find out how you can stay one step ahead of biting insects in and around your home.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CNN Health

The Washington Post

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