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Vector-Borne Disease Cases Have Tripled in the United States Since 2004

Vector-Borne Disease Cases Have Tripled in the United States Since 2004

Diseases like Lyme disease, Zika, Dengue, and West Nile that are spread by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas tripled in the U.S. between 2004 and 2016, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Lyme disease accounted for 82 percent of all tick-borne disease reports during 2004-2016", the CDC team wrote in their report. During that period, a total of more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported to the CDC.

"Nine new germs - seven of them spread by ticks - have been newly introduced or discovered in the United States since 2004", said Redfield.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, acknowledged the "growing burden" of these vector-borne illnesses, but he expressed optimism about the ability of state and local health departments, vector control organizations, and industry to help protect the public from these types of threats. For example, they cited a recent estimate of approximately 300,000 annual cases of Lyme disease - up to 10 times the number reported to the NNDSS. "There is a role for everyone". Differences in distribution and transmission dynamics of tickborne and mosquitoborne diseases are often rooted in biologic differences of the vectors.

"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.

Cases of tick-borne diseases doubled during the study period, from about 22,500 in 2004 to about 48,600 in 2016.

Tick-borne diseases in particular are not reported or recognized, so it is hard to estimate their cost and burden, noted Lyle Petersen, MD, director, vector-borne diseases at the CDC, on a media call.




While the increase in tick-borne illnesses was gradual, rising steadily each year, the increase in mosquito-borne diseases was more sudden, driven by recent epidemics of West Nile virus and Zika virus.

The nine new threats reported in the USA 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.

This was the case during the 2016 Zika outbreak, which began in Brazil and spread to other parts of South and North America after mosquitoes bit infected travelers who unknowingly brought the virus home.

There are several factors behind the increase in these diseases, the researchers said.

When asked if the temperature increases were due to climate change, Petersen declined to comment, telling reporters, "that's the job of meteorologists". 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. Longer, hotter summers are not helping, said Dr. Lyle Petersen of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Humans have a hard time controlling creatures like ticks and mosquitoes, and that has made it difficult to stop the spread of many of these diseases, especially the tick-borne ones, which are responsible for the biggest part of the case increase.

The researchers noted that these illnesses often go unreported; for instance, a person may have contracted Zika or West Nile virus but have never gone to the doctor. Additionally, about 80 percent of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities. "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".

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