The CDC Says Tick-Borne Diseases Are On The Rise

Kenny Tucker
May 3, 2018

More and more Americans are being infected with diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes, federal researchers reported Tuesday.

During the period between 2004 and 2016, not less than 9 vector-borne diseases were recorded, for the first time ever, in the US. That's behind only Colorado, Florida, New York, Texas and California, which had the most cases - 9,254.

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".

Dr. Christine Navarro from Toronto Public Health said they are monitoring the tick and mosquito population and that Toronto has already experienced an increase in the number of ticks found that test positive for bacteria that causes Lyme disease. In 2016, the most common mosquito-borne viruses in the United States were West Nile, dengue, and Zika.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that some 96,075 diseases caused by bites by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas were reported in 2016, up from 27,388 in 2004, in an analysis of data from the CDC's National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.

Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas - we perceive these insects as an unpleasant and often unavoidable factor of life, but nearly never think that they not only affect our nerves, but also threaten our health. Vectors are disease transmitters, usually insects via their bites.

"Vector-borne diseases are fueled by changes in the ecology of microbial pathogen, reservoir hosts, local and global climate change as well as changes in human host susceptibility or travel patterns", Sullivan said. Indeed, people who were bitten by ticks while travelling in Europe account for two-thirds of all the more recent B.C. cases.

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"The ticks are mostly just trying to time out their life cycle to mammals they're more active when it's warmer and they're are less active when it's colder because they adjust to the same temperature as the environment", says Draney.

For most of these diseases, the only way to stop outbreaks is through mosquito control, which is expensive and rarely effective.

A good example, Petersen said, was chikungunya, which causes joint pain so severe that it is called "bending-up disease".

In these ways, climate change may have a greater effect on vector-borne disease in the future, as it continues to progress-but likely in complex ways that interact with a variety of other factors, including human behavior and other environmental conditions.

Southern Vermont has had more confirmed Lyme disease cases since 2015 than any other region of the state. There were about 1,000 cases of Lyme disease across Canada in 2016, according to the Public Health Agency.

"This is one place we don't want to be number one", Schumer said. There were 17 cases of flea-borne plague infections a year during the study period, the report says. The report says that of all the infections, those transmitted by ticks were most common (75 percent).

A complex and chronic disease clinic at B.C. Women's Hospital opened five years ago to help patients with hard to diagnose and treat illnesses, including Lyme disease.

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