Well, this bites!
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 international travel, US health officials said Tuesday.
More than 642,000 cases of the illnesses were reported during the 13 years studied in the Vital Signs report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some 96,075 diseases caused by such bites were reported in 2016, up from 27,388 in 2004, according to the CDC. Among them were cases of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and West Nile.
Infections in 2016 went up 73 percent from 2015, reflecting the emergence of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can cause severe birth defects.
Zika was the most common disease transmitted by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas reported in 2016, with 41,680 cases reported, followed by Lyme disease, with 36,429 cases, almost double the number in 2004.
The spike in infections was linked to higher temperatures and shorter winters boosting populations of skeeters and other disease-carrying critters known as “vectors.”
“It enables these ticks to expand to new areas. Where there are ticks, there comes diseases,” said Lyle Petersen, head of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.
Peterson declined to say specifically if climate change is behind the alarming numbers.
“Many of these diseases are sensitive to increasing temperatures,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Increasing temperatures will tend to expand the ranges of these ticks further north as well as increasing the length of tick season.”
Other factors leading to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases include international travel, the CDC said.
The diseases pose “an increasing risk” and the “nation needs to be better prepared to face this public health threat,” the report 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 US in recent years, making a lot of people sick,” CDC chief Robert Redfield said.
“Nine new germs — seven of them spread by ticks — have been newly introduced or discovered in the United States since 2004,” he added.
The most common mosquito-borne viruses are West Nile, dengue and Zika, while the most common disease resulting from an infected flea’s bite is the plague.
Paul Auwaerterhead of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, called for more research money for diagnostics, vaccines and treatments for the diseases.
“Vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Zika virus disease can devastate patients and their families, causing significant suffering,” he told Agence France-Presse.
“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.”
The study was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
With Post wires
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