As the number of vector-borne cases continues to increase, the burden on local and state health departments has grown as well.
Officials say the actual number of people who have become sick is much higher, in part because many infections are not reported or recognized. Similarly, only 840 cases of West Nile virus were diagnosed in 2016, but data suggests as many as 91,000 Americans may have been infected but not diagnosed. In 2016, the most common tickborne diseases in the USA were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis.
Avoiding bites from ticks and mosquitoes is therefore paramount. Tick-transmitted diseases are more likely to affect Northeastern states. 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.
The new report identified 16 vectorborne diseases on the rise, including lyme disease, anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis, spotted fever rickettsiosis, babesiosis, tularemia, Powassan virus, Dengue viruses, Zika virus, West Nile virus, malaria, chikungunya virus, California serogroup viruses, St. Louis encephalitis virus, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, yellow fever virus, and plague. Longer, hotter summers are not helping, said Dr. Lyle Petersen of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
The report notes an increasing trend in these diseases each year, whereas the burden of mosquito-borne diseases appears to be more episodic, with numbers fluctuating as epidemics occur.
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For example, recent data from clinical and laboratory diagnoses estimate that Lyme disease infects about 300,000 Americans every year, which is eight to 10 times more than the number reported in the CDC analysis. As a result, more people are at risk for infection. "Increasing temperatures will tend to expand the ranges of these ticks further north as well as increasing the length of tick season".
The CDC warned that the US public health system is not fully prepared to fight back against bug-borne illnesses. "We can take one disease and put it on another continent in four or five hours". Unfortunately, for a majority of these, there are no vaccinations or treatment options, meaning mosquito control is the best option for preventing the spread of these diseases.
How can state and local public health agencies help?
Experts warn that climate change can exacerbate many public health threats, including diseases spread by insects and other animals that thrive in warmer conditions.
Developing and improving laboratory tests for these diseases.