Ticks, Mosquitoe Borne Diseases More Than Tripled In U.S. Since 2004
Ticks borne diseases have more than tripled in the United States since 2004, says the Centers For Disease Control (CDC). The same is true for mosquitoes and fleas. In addition, the CDC says that many more cases go unreported or unrecognized.
The CDC says this growing public health problem will only worsen without better cooperation between local, states, and the federal government.
Ticks: Disease Carriers
They transmit most of the diseases spread by organisms, are gaining ground in the United States. Ticks transmit Lyme infection and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which appear to be on the rise, along with newer and deadlier infections, including Heartland and Bourbon viruses. The CDC has identified seven new germs transmitted by ticks.
Mosquitoes are spreading, causing periodic epidemics of dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, and Zika. Unlike tick-borne diseases, which are not infectious, mosquito-borne diseases are.
Warm weather brings out mosquitoes in droves. They are most prevalent in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Getting control of these tiny creatures is a challenge, as they are carried by rodents and birds.
Ticks: Disease Statistics
The diseases transmitted by ticks in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and the numbers of cases are:
- Lyme disease: 36,429 (experts believe the annual number is around 300,000, based on surveillance)
- Anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis: 5,750
- Spotted fever rickettsiosis (Rocky Mountain spotted fever): 4,269,
- Babesiosis: 1,910
- Tularemia: 230
- Powassan virus: 22
Ehrlichiosis, which is spread by the lone star tick, is grouped with anaplasmosis as the second most common tick-transmitted disease in the U.S. Without prompt treatment, both diseases can kill.
Babesiosis is a life-threatening parasitic disease, and Powassan virus is a tick-borne disease that does not respond to antibiotics.
Heartland and Bourbon viruses, transmitted by ticks, are emerging diseases. Both have led to a handful of deaths, mainly in the Midwest.
Ticks: CDC Expanding Disease Control Programs
Better diagnostics and prompt treatment with antibiotics have kept the death toll down from tick-borne diseases. The CDC report notes that West Nile Virus outbreaks depend on mosquitoes feeding on infected birds and that despite the presence of the Aedes aegyptimosquito in 38 states, the incidence of Zika is low.
Lyle Petersen, MD, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said 84% of the 1,900 vector control groups working to prevent and control threats told the CDC in 2017 that they need better monitoring and pesticide-resistance testing.
Petersen said a $12.2 million increase in the CDC’s budget this year will go to vector control efforts in 9 states.
As we head into the warm summer months when ticks thrive, it’s important to take protective measures when outdoors. Anti tick sprays, long sleeve shirts, and avoiding high brush areas will help. Those with weak immune systems, such as seniors, should be especially careful.