A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Illnesses are on the rise from mosquito, tick and flea bites — be aware and know how to protect yourself

Almost everyone has been bitten by a mosquito, tick, or flea. These can be vectors for spreading pathogens (germs).

A person who gets bitten by a vector and gets sick has a vector-borne disease, like dengue, Zika, Lyme, or plague.

Between 2004 and 2016, more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported, and 9 new germs spread by bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the U.S. State and local health departments and vector control organizations are the nation’s main defense against this increasing threat.

Yet, 84% of local vector control organizations lack at least 1 of 5 core vector control competencies. Better control of mosquitoes and ticks is needed to protect people from these costly and deadly diseases.

State and local public health agencies can

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

• Train vector control staff on 5 core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities.
• Educate the public about how to prevent bites and control germs spread by mosquitoes, ticks,  and fleas in their communities.

More cases in the US (2004-2016)

• The number of reported cases of disease from mosquito, tick, and flea bites has more than tripled.

• More than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported from 2004 to 2016.

• Disease cases from ticks have doubled.

• Mosquito-borne disease epidemics happen more frequently.

More germs (2004-2016)

• Chikungunya and Zika viruses caused outbreaks in the US for the first time.

• Seven new tickborne germs can infect people in the US.
More people at risk

• Commerce moves mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas around the world.

• Infected travelers can introduce and spread germs across the world.

• Mosquitoes and ticks move germs into new areas of the U.S., causing more people to be at risk.

The U.S. is not fully prepared

• Local and state health departments and vector control organizations face increasing demands to respond to these threats.

• More than 80% of vector control organizations report needing improvement in 1 or more of 5 core competencies, such as testing for pesticide resistance.

• More proven and publicly accepted mosquito and tick control methods are needed to prevent and control these diseases.

Everyone can

• Use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

• Treat items, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

• Take steps to control ticks and fleas on pets.

• Find and remove ticks daily from family and pets.

• Take steps to control mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas inside and outside your home.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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