The most persistent disease-spreading insects – mosquitos, ticks and fleas – are biting more and more Americans, spreading new germs and diseases in recent years, according to a new report that examined 13 years of these pests’ bites in the country.
Over 640,000 patients fell ill from diseases transmitted by bites from the three insects combined in the United States from 2004 to 2016, an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated.
Dr. Lyle Peterson, the report’s lead author, said that conditions are actually worse than that, since these numbers are underestimations. There are thousands more of unreported or unrecognized cases, ABC News reports. The CDC estimates that there are around 300,000 cases of Lyme disease alone in the US yearly. Ticks, which transmit Lyme disease, have grown in number because of the rapid decline in deer hunting, a lack of predators, and wider habitats in suburban forests.
On the other hand, mosquito-borne diseases have unpredictable patterns because of their epidemic nature. Since 2004, mosquito-caused outbreaks have been limited to US territories, such as the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and American Samoa. These include dengue, West Nile virus, Zika ad chikungunya. For a majority of these diseases, there are no viable vaccinations, meaning the best course is prevention, or mosquito control.
Diseases caused by fleas, like the plague, are still causing small numbers of people to get sick, but are otherwise really rare, with only two to seventeen cases recorded per year from 2004 to 2016. The plague is highly responsive to antibiotic treatments, reducing its danger factor.
This range of diseases is providing health officials with new challenges, together with the growing burden of mosquito and tick-borne illnesses. Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, 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. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next.”