CDC: Diseases from mosquito, tick, flea bites more than tripled from 2004

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Most reports of chikungunya, dengue and Zika - three diseases spread by Aedes mosquitoes - came from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa, researchers said, but the mainland U.S. also saw many cases, including locally transmitted cases of Zika in Florida and Texas.

"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.

"The bottom line is this: illnesses from tick, mosquito, and flea bites continue to impact our nation".

As a group, these diseases in the United States are notable for their wide geographical distribution and resistance to control.

Overseas travel also is contributing to the increase, with travelers picking up insect-borne illnesses in other lands and bringing them back to the United States.

The number of Americans sickened each year by bites from infected mosquitoes, ticks or fleas tripled from 2004 through 2016, with infection rates spiking sharply in 2016 as a result of a Zika outbreak, US health officials said Tuesday. The CDC said it had identified nine new pathogens transmitted by insects within the US over the 13-year stretch, including diseases like the Zika and West Nile viruses and chikungunya, a virus that attacks the joints and can cause extreme pain.

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

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Petersen also noted that humans have moved into areas where there are more deer, putting them at higher risk for tick-borne diseases.

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.

"Many of these diseases are sensitive to increasing temperatures", he told reporters Tuesday.

Tick-borne disease account for more than 75 percent of the reports and occur throughout the continental United States, but are predominantly in the eastern part of the country and in areas along the Pacific Coast. The diseases they carry vary by region, and those regions are expanding. 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. This includes a doubling of diseases transmitted by ticks, which in turn accounted for 60 percent of all vector-borne diseases, he said. Dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses were nearly exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tick-transmitted diseases are more likely to affect Northeastern states. "It will take all of us working together to prevent and control diseases" from these insects, he said.

Agencies can also train vector control staff on core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities.

Dr. Paul Auwaerter, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, urged Congress to increase funding "for surveillance and prevention of vector-borne diseases, including resources to support research on the most effective methods for preventing tick-borne infections". "Like our patients, we are looking for answers, too".

"This includes wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, and making sure you use a proper insect repellent, especially when walking in wooded and grassy areas, where the risk for tick bites is significantly increased", Glatter said.

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