Tick, mosquito infections spreading rapidly, CDC finds

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These pests caused more than 96,000 cases of illness in 2016, up from roughly 27,388 in 2004 and part of a continuing increase in insect-borne diseases, CDC researchers said. Zika was the most common disease borne by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas reported in 2016, with 41,680 cases reported, followed by Lyme disease, with 36,429 cases, nearly double the number in 2004.

"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".

There are reasons to think the situation could continue getting worse, CDC director Robert Redfield said on a call with reporters Tuesday. Additionally, about 80 percent of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities. "Endemic plague, a fleaborne disease that is transmitted mostly in the rural southwestern United States, did not exceed 17 cases in a year", the CDC report reads.

And that's just the reported cases, which represent a much lower number than the overall total, according to the report.

A graph showing the rise in reported illnesses from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas in the United States. These diseases are spread as mosquitoes expand into new territory and are brought home by travelers. In fact, tick-borne diseases actually doubled over the course of the 13-year time period, with Lyme disease accounting for the majority of those infections.

The nine new threats reported in the US since 2004 include seven new tick-borne pathogens, including the Heartland and Bourbon viruses in the Midwest and a new Borrelia species - B. mayonii - that has caused Lyme disease in the upper Midwest.

Researchers warned that their numbers likely do not include every case, as many infections are not reported.

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

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The warmer weather of spring and summer means the start of tick and mosquito season and the diseases they transmit, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile and Zika.

The diseases pose "an increasing risk" and the "nation needs to be better prepared to face this public health threat", the report said.

Tick-borne diseases and mosquito-borne diseases also seem to follow different patterns.

Other factors, including an increase in global travel and more people living near wildlife, also affect the spread of these diseases, Petersen said.

He cited a 2017 survey that found that "84% of vector control organizations report needing improvement in one or more of five core competencies", adding that they are looking to expand the number of prevention and control programs, as well as looking to rebuild comprehensive vector control programs.

"We are also investigating how climate change may impact the spread of vector-borne diseases so that we can take appropriate actions to protect public health". "We support boosting resources for research and development leading to improved diagnostics for Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases by the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority".

Disclosures: Auwaerter, Petersen and Redfield report no relevant financial disclosures.