CDC: US Illnesses from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas tripled in the last 13 years as temperatures rise

The number of people being infected by diseases from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas has tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016, according to a new report by the Center for Disease Control. There were more than 640,000 cases of these diseases reported during the 13 years analyzed.

In addition to increases in number of infections, there were also nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks that were discovered.

The report listed increased world travel among one of the major factors in the increase in disease. Infected travelers have the potential to introduce and spread germs from country to country.

While travel has aided the spread of these illnesses, the main explanation for the increase is changes in climate that lead to more mosquitoes, and eventually more cases of these diseases, according to the CDC.

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How to avoid tick bites

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1. Stay in the middle of the path

When hiking, make sure to stay in the middle of the path. Weeds, grass and trees make it easier for ticks to crawl onto you. Don’t venture out to the grass or bushes, where ticks are formidable to be hiding. 

2. Wear long pants and closed toed shoes

Protect your skin. Adding an extra layer makes it more difficult to latch on to you. It’s smart to wear pants, long sleeves and hats, especially in the summer.

3. Invest in deer-resistant plants. 

Since ticks feed on and are transported by deer, try looking into deer-resistant plants. French marigolds, rosemary, mint and crape myrtle are just some of the greens deer tend to “overlook”. 

See a complete list of the herbs and flowers here. 

4. Check your dog! 

Dogs can literally bring ticks right to your front door. Prevent ticks by keeping their coats short in the summer. Use your hands to check the fur, stopping if you feel a pea-sized bump. Favorite spots ticks like to hide include the ears, toes and under the tail. 

Dog ticks don’t “harbor diseases that sicken people”, but you should still be wary. 

5. Yes, repellant can help. 

According to TickenEncounter, spray with DEET does not provide “sufficient” protection. Get spray for your clothes like Permethrin, which instantly kills ticks. 

6. Dry your clothes 

The CDC recommends tumble drying clothes immediately for ten minutes after you’ve been outside. Ticks can easily “dry out” with high heat, but you should make sure the clothes are completely dry. 

Warning: Ticks can survive the wash. 

7. Tuck your pants into your socks.

This covers the small, easily accessible space in between your pants and ankles. Especially if you are sitting, it makes it easier for ticks to latch on. 

8. Stay in the sun.

Since ticks survive in shady, humid environments, researchers agree that staying in the sun lowers the risk for ticks. According to LiveScience, ticks “can’t survive” in places with lower than 80% humidity. 

9. Invest in Permethrin socks

The chemical is successful in protecting against ticks, mosquitoes and other types of bites. Lymedisease.org estimates that permethrin-treated footwear offered 74 times the protection from bites.

10. Mow your lawn

Cut your grass, clean your yard, get rid of any extra firewood or wood chips. 

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Higher temperatures and longer warm seasons increase risk for these illnesses in a variety of ways. First, mosquitoes develop faster in warmer weather.

Milder winters and earlier springs result in longer mosquito seasons, larger mosquito populations and a longer time for people to be at risk.

In the U.S., it is very likely that climate change has contributed to the northern expansion of ticks that carry Lyme disease and has also led to a longer season of risk to acquire a tick-borne infection, according to Ben Beard, the deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

Since 2003, the U.S. has seen a warming trend during the summer season, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. Throughout the country, there has been an increase in temperature over the last 15 years.

Summer temps

(Image/NOAA Climate)

In addition to temperature, one major factor for the number of mosquitoes is how wet an area is. Mosquitoes use water to breed, so an area with increased rainfall in the spring and early summer will typically see more mosquitoes throughout the summer.

The 2018 summer forecast predicts areas that will be hot and wet, and therefore can deliver a good idea of which areas of the country will see an increase in ticks and mosquitoes.

“The Tennessee Valley is one area that’s been hit with a lot of rainfall [during previous] springs and early summers,” Pastelok said. “And this year, it’s no different.”

Rainfall departures are doubled in the Tennessee Valley for the spring so far, according to Pastelok.

Summer forecast rain

AccuWeather’s 2018 summer forecast for precipitation departures from normal.

According to the report, the U.S. is not prepared to face this public health threat. Health departments have seen an increased demand in aid for the diseases, especially during the Zika virus epidemic in 2015 and 2016.

“Recent outbreaks of Zika, chikungunya, and West Nile virus and the steady increase of Lyme disease cases highlight the need for states to have comprehensive vector prevention and control programs,” Lyle Petersen, the director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said.

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