Diseases from ticks, fleas, mosquitoes soar in US

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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 US.

Overseas travel also is contributing to the increase, with travelers picking up insect-borne illnesses in other lands and bringing them back to the United States. "Where there are ticks, there comes diseases", Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, tells Reuters.

And although it's rare, plague is still transmitted by fleas. In fact, tick-borne diseases actually doubled over the course of the 13-year time period, with Lyme disease accounting for the majority of those infections.

What's more, nine germs spread by these insects - including Zika virus and chikungunya virus, which spread by mosquitoes, and babesiosis, which spreads by ticks - were discovered or introduced to the US during the study period, according to the report.

Tickborne illnesses went from around 22,000 in 2004 to more than 48,000 in 2016.

"Lyme patients are treated in an outpatient setting, so outpatient disease is underreported to a certain extent", Petersen said, but added that even though all the cases are not reported, it's not necessary that every case is counted.

Data have shown that Zika, once thought to be a benign virus, has caused numerous birth defects in the U.S. Zika and West Nile, which has caused epidemics since it was first introduced in the U.S.in 1999, were the most commonly reported mosquito-borne diseases in the continental U.S. In addition, during the study period, researchers identified seven tick-borne diseases that could infect people and that were either newly discovered or newly introduced to the US, the report said.

"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 USA in recent years, making a lot of people sick", CDC chief Robert Redfield said.

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More and more Americans are being infected with diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes, federal researchers reported Tuesday.

The warmer weather of spring and summer means the start of tick and mosquito season and the diseases they transmit, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile and Zika. "And we don't know what will threaten Americans next", said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D., said in a statement. Zika, which showed up in 2015 as part of its flash spread across the Americas, is now a permanent resident of Puerto Rico and causes sporadic outbreaks in Texas and Florida.

Other factors leading to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases include worldwide travel, the CDC said.

"If you increase temperatures in general, tick populations move further north", expanding the range of people affected, Peterson said.

"Zika funding helped prepare us for these types of diseases, but more funding is necessary", he said.

Government efforts to prevent vector-borne diseases include the funding of states and territories to detect and respond to infections and the development of improved diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatment for these diseases, the CDC said. Petersen said the agency is using two strategies to better prepare the organizations to prevent and control the threats.

People with pets should regularly inspect the animals to make sure they aren't carrying ticks that can be brought indoors, Glatter said.