CDC: Illnesses from tick, mosquito, and flea bites more than tripled between 2004 and 2016
Nine new vector-borne pathogens have been identified since 2004
With summer around the corner, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts are warning — beware the bugs!
A new report from the agency reveals that diseases transmitted through the bites of blood-feeding ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas are a “growing public health problem” in the United States.
Reported cases of what are called vector-borne diseases have more than tripled nationwide, growing from 27,388 cases reported in 2004 to a whopping 96,075 cases reported in 2016, according to the new Vital Signs report published by the CDC on Tuesday.
Vector-borne diseases are illnesses that are transmitted by vectors, or blood-feeding ticks and insects capable of transmitting pathogens – bacteria, viruses, or parasites – from one host to another. Pathogens, transmitted through a vector’s bite, cause illness. These include Lyme disease, West Nile virus and Zika virus, to name a few.
“It’s very important that the public is very aware that these are more than summertime nuisances – you can get very severe diseases from ticks and mosquitoes,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, an author of the report and director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, who actually had West Nile virus himself from a mosquito bite in 2003.
“I was sick at home in bed for more than a week with severe headaches and fever and skin rash and just feeling horrible,” he said about his illness. “Then after that, it took me about three months to get back to normal. It was definitely something that ruined my summer.”
Vector-borne diseases account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than 700,000 deaths annually across the globe, according to the World Health Organization.