Tickborne Diseases Are On the Rise. Is Climate Change to Blame?

Tickborne Diseases Are On the Rise. Is Climate Change to Blame?

The number of Americans sickened by bites from infected mosquitoes, ticks or fleas tripled from 2004 to 2016 - a result of rising global temperatures and increased worldwide travel, United States health officials said Tuesday. People also carry these diseases to new places as they travel.

"The presence of vectors with proven or possible capacity to transmit a wide range of pathogens leaves the United States susceptible to outbreaks of exotic vector-borne diseases", the report said.

Though rare, plague was the most common disease resulting from the bite of an infected flea. West Nile virus, also spread by mosquitoes, is widespread across the continental United States where it is the major mosquito-borne disease.

In the time period covered by the study, nine new diseases showed up in the United States, including seven carried by ticks, and Zika and chikungunya, which are carried by mosquitoes.

The number of vector-borne illnesses in the USA tripled from 2004 to 2016, rising to almost 650,000 cases. Plus, new vectors, like a tick from Asia that was recently found in New Jersey for the first time, continue to appear and may bring new diseases.

Overall, the researchers tallied a little more than 642,600 cases of disease transmitted by insect bites between 2004 and 2016. A recent survey of mosquito control agencies found that 84 percent needed help with basics like surveillance and pesticide-resistance testing, Petersen said.

"Zika, West Nile, Lyme and chikungunya - a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick or flea - have confronted the U.S.in recent years, making a lot of people sick", CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

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The number of illnesses in the USA caused by mosquito, tick and flea bites has made a dramatic jump in the last decade, raising concerns that a changing climate could lead to more widespread viral outbreaks.

According to data from a new CDC Vital Signs report, more than 640,000 cases of vector-borne illnesses like Zika, West Nile virus and Lyme disease were reported to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS) by state health departments from 2004 through 2016, although the actual total is thought to be much higher. Dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses were nearly exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"What I can say is that any of these diseases are very sensitive to temperatures, so when there are increasing temps, it promotes several things", Petersen said. Warmer weather has also made tick and mosquito season longer, and mosquitoes tend to become more infectious during heat waves.

"Zika funding helped prepare us for these types of diseases, but more funding is necessary", he said.

In a 2017 report from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, an organization representing 500,000 clinical practitioners aimed at taking action against climate change, Damle shared that over the past five years, his practice has seen a significant rise in tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and other infections. "We also advocate for federal investments in the research and development of new vaccines to prevent Zika, Lyme disease, and other serious vector-borne diseases".

Taking steps to control mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas inside and outside your home, including using screens on windows and air conditioning when available.

"After spending time in wooded areas or in parks, always make sure to inspect yourself and your family for ticks", Glatter continued.

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