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Diseases transmitted by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes are becoming more risky and far more numerous: Between 2004 and 2016, they tripled to almost 650,000 cases, a new CDC report finds.

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.

Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH, an Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member and director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said warmer temperatures allow ticks to move farther north, increasing their range and extending the length of tick season, which places more people at risk for infection. Tick-transmitted diseases are more likely to affect Northeastern states. His current projects include studying the tickets that spread Lyme and relapsing fever, and his overall focus is the evolution of infectious diseases in wild animals and how that translates into transmitting diseases to humans.

Build and sustain public health programs that test and track germs and the mosquitoes and ticks that spread them.

Tickborne illnesses went from around 22,000 in 2004 to more than 48,000 in 2016. Mosquitoes and ticks and the germs they spread are increasing in number and moving into new areas.

"Lyme patients are treated in an outpatient setting, so outpatient disease is underreported to a certain extent", Petersen said, but added that even though all the cases are not reported, it's not necessary that every case is counted.

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.

Another 2017 report, entitled The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, also warns that seasonal patterns and warming are expected to not only lead to earlier seasonal tick activity but may also speed up mosquito biting rates, accelerate the mosquito life cycle, and decrease the time needed for an infected mosquito to transmit West Nile Virus.

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"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", said CDC director Robert Redfield.

Ticks and mosquitoes and fleas, oh my. A person who gets bitten by a vector and gets sick has a vector-borne disease, like dengue, Zika, Lyme, or plague. "And we don't know what will threaten Americans next", CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. Dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses were nearly exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The CDC said more than 80 percent of vector-control organizations across the United States lack the capacity to prevent and control these fast-spreading, demanding illnesses.

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

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) seconded that conclusion, calling for more federal funding of research into the development of new vaccines to battle these diseases.

"What I can say is that any of these diseases are very sensitive to temperatures, so when there are increasing temps, it promotes several things", Petersen said.

Find and remove ticks daily from family and pets.


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