The People's Perspective on Medicine

Ticks and Mosquitoes Responsible for More Disease

Diseases spread through the bites of ticks and mosquitoes have become three times as common in the last dozen years, according to the CDC.
Tick bug insect Lyme disease, Ixodes scapularis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes are becoming far more common. New data from 2004 to 2016 shows that such vector-borne diseases have more than tripled (Rosenberg et al, MMWR, online, May 1, 2018).

What Diseases Do Ticks and Mosquitoes Carry?

In 2004, the CDC noted over 27,000 cases of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and West Nile, dengue and Zika virus disease. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are transmitted by ticks. West Nile, dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses, on the other hand, are transmitted by mosquitoes. In 2016 the agency had received reports of more than 96,000 cases of these diseases.

Such official numbers do not represent the actual number of people who were infected. That’s because many people go undiagnosed and not all cases are reported. As many as 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year, according to estimates. However, only 36,429 cases were reported in 2016.

Where Are These Diseases Most Common?

Tick-borne disease are most common on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Mosquito-borne diseases are mostly found in tropical areas such as American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. (If you would like to know which tick bit you, the CDC offers this ID picture.) As climate change progresses, however, both ticks and mosquitoes are expanding their range. The diseases they carry will come with them. New vector-borne diseases have also been discovered, such as Bourbon, Heartland and Powassan viruses transmitted by ticks. The increase in diseases traced to bites from ticks and mosquitoes will probably continue.

Learn More:

We have done several interviews with experts on diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes. You may wish to listen to Show 1081: What Do You Need to Know about Lyme Disease?

Another disease spread by the bites of ticks and fleas is Bartonellosis. You can find out about it through our Show 907: Ticks, Fleas & Mystery Disease.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    Back in the bad old days, before Saint Rachel Carson, we had DDT and other effective pesticides readily available domestically and to trade partners. In various parts of Latin America, mosquitoes were almost extinct. Also, we did not have uncounted thousands of children in sub-Saharan Africa dying of malaria. In short, the whole world is paying a terrible price for our willingness to allow self-appointed environmental experts to determine public policy.

    Would we be having this problem if DDT had never been banned? How many deaths due to mosquito-borne illnesses have there been around the world since DDT was banned? Now we have to cover our children with DEET before letting them play outside. Seems we’ve traded one set of chemicals for another…..

    Does it help to have your yard sprayed against mosquitoes if neighboring yards are not sprayed?

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^