More than 640,000 patients came down with diseases transmitted by bites from the three types of insects were reported across the U.S. between 2004 and 2016, according to the analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The range of diseases, many of which are new and challenging for health officials to combat, is wide –- as is the growing burden of mosquito-borne and tickborne illnesses in the U.S.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty ImagesA mosquito is pictured biting a hand in this undated stock photo.
“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. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, said in a statement.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty ImagesAn adult female western blacklegged tick is pictured in this undated stock photo.
Most notable –- Lyme disease. Tick-borne diseases like Lyme and ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis more than doubled in the 13-year span of this report.
Why? Mosquitoes and ticks — and the germs they spread — are moving into new areas of the country, putting more people at risk for infection.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty ImagesAn adult cat flea is pictured in this undated stock photo.
Travelers can be infected by a mosquito overseas, with viruses like Zika, and transport the virus to the U.S. Part of the increase, undoubtedly, is that new germs spread by these bugs are now “nationally notifiable,” meaning doctors have a responsibility to log and report them.
But people can fight back. Some of the same things that provide protection from sun also protect you from biting insects. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a hat help keep bugs off skin. Bug repellent helps, too, and there are many brands of clothing now sold with the repellents built in. Repellent can also be put in socks, shoes, hats, even tents.
Making sure pets are tick-free is also a help. Do a “tick check” after spending time outdoors and remove any ticks found immediately; a tick must stay attached for a day or more to transmit Lyme disease.
In addition, take sensible steps to keep bugs from breeding in the backyard –- don’t let standing water be a nursery for mosquitoes.