Posted: May. 25, 2018 12:01
Vector-borne disease cases have more than doubled in the United States since 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported, with mosquitoes and ticks being the main culprits.
Mosquitoes, which are long malaria and yellow fever spreaders, have recently spread Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya viruses, causing epidemic outbreaks, mainly in the US territories. Insects are also largely responsible for endemicizing West Nile virus in the continental US
Ticks that are not insects but parasitic arthropods actually cause more diseases than mosquitoes in the US, which is 76.51
Why the upsurge in vector-borne diseases and, more importantly, how can we protect ourselves against potentially serious diseases? As a researcher of this type of disease, we have some answers.
Blood: the high cost of living
Both mosquitoes and ticks transmit pathogens through bites.
Only the female mosquito takes a blood meal to make eggs, but almost all life stages of ticks need blood to survive.
Although mosquitoes first demonstrated the ability to transmit disease in 1889, mosquitoes transmitted diseases much longer. Written records already around 2700 BC suggest malaria plagued people in China.
The first suspected dengue outbreak occurred in the early 1600s, but it took three centuries for the first three mosquito-borne diseases – malaria, dengue, and yellow fever – to invade America. But in the last two decades alone, we've seen a wave of three other mosquito-borne diseases – West Nile, Chikungunya, and Zika viruses. This significant increase in disease spread is due to several factors including advances in air and water movement and warming.
The high cost of international travel and trade
The international tire trade has made Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, a global traveler. This mosquito passes cargo ships and gets in the thousands of tires aboard these ships unrestricted access to artificial containers that they need for breeding. Rainwater that accumulates in the tires are ideal breeding grounds. Although it is not a major vector of dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses, this invasive species is still particularly dangerous. It is able to outperform most other mosquito species living in similar habitats.
We humans serve as hosts for many vector-borne diseases, and our own movement can assist transmission. We can get on a plane within hours and be in another country. Diseases that were once quarantined in other parts of the world can now easily be transported within an infected person. Some people do not even realize that they are ill. Researchers estimate that up to 80 percent of those infected with the Zika virus are asymptomatic. However, if the right vector feeds on a symptomless but infected person, transmission may still occur.
Increasing climate variability, mainly due to human activities, may also affect the spread of vector-borne diseases. A warmer climate can allow mosquitoes to survive in areas that were previously too cold to support them.
The prediction of the warming result for the total vector populations can be difficult. For example, when summer in the deep southeast becomes too hot and too dry for the development of mosquitoes, peak transmission and mosquitoes could shift to autumn. Higher temperatures can shorten the time needed to develop mosquito-borne pathogens, so mosquitoes can become more infectious and transmit pathogens faster.
Five percent of 900 species of ticks are known to transmit disease-causing microorganisms. With 38 percent of all tick species known to bite humans, researchers are likely to find more tick-borne diseases. Since 2004, nine new vector-borne diseases have been described in the US, seven of which are transmitted by ticks, including the two potentially deadly viruses Bourbon and Heartland.
Most or 82 percent of cases of tick-borne diseases are Lyme disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted by the black-legged or deer tick. Cases of Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis have increased by two and a half to six and a half times.
Tick-borne diseases may increase due to global travel, animal transport, habitat fragmentation and climate change. Climate change correlates with the spread of several important species of ticks. Ticks, which used to be limited by cold winters, are now establishing themselves further north. In response to the arrival of Lyme disease on Canadian soil, the Canadian Department of Health responded with a federal framework for Lyme disease focused on disease surveillance, education and awareness, as well as best practices for the control, prevention and treatment of Lyme borreliosis concentrated.
What can you do?
To reduce the risk of transmitting mosquitoes:
Check backyards for anything that could hold water and empty such ships. These include children's toys, bird baths, empty beverage cans and flowerpots.
Use mosquito repellents approved by the EPA. Avoid natural antibodies that have not been tested for their effectiveness.
Preventing tick bites:
One sure way to prevent tick bites is to avoid suitable tick biotopes, but this is not always possible. Large-scale habitat control or acaricidal (wild-sounding) treatment of wildlife, though possible, can be difficult or not cost-effective for homeowners. The best preventive measures are:
º Use CDC-recommended antibodies such as DEET or picaridine.
º Shower and do a thorough tick-check.
Tick-checks are absolutely crucial. People usually follow this routine when they go outside but sometimes forget about it. And they often avoid places that love love, like between your legs. Hard to reach areas are a prime property for bloodsucking parasites that do not want to be let go. Check therefore: the hairline (especially in children), the trunk, the belly button and the groin area. If necessary, get help or a mirror and a bright light.
If you find an embedded tick, carefully remove it with a pair of fine tweezers, grasp the part closest to the skin and pull straight up. Do not burn, squeeze, twist or stifle the tick, as it may cause vomiting. Rough-out alarm: All pathogens that they have in their saliva can then be released into the bite site.
After removal remove the tick for identification; different types transmit different pathogens. Finally, find a doctor after finding an embedded tick or if you think you have been bitten. In addition to medical care, your data will be included in the national list of tick-borne diseases.
The CDC has several pages devoted to vector-based disease control and prevention. Local health authorities, general practitioners and veterinarians also have recommendations for prevention, treatment and vector control. Talk to your veterinarian about repellents or agents that will kill mites, which are called pet acaricides, as some may be toxic to cats.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.