The number of Americans who fell ill from the bites of infected mosquitoes, ticks or fleas tripled from 2004 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 13 years, 640,000 cases were reported, with a sharp spike in 2016 due to the Zika outbreak.
According to the CDC, some 96,075 illnesses from the bite of these bugs were reported in 2016, a dramatic spike from the 27,388 cases recorded in 2004. Zika was the most common disease from mosquito, tick and flea bites reported in 2016, accounting for 41,680 of the documented cases. This resulted in 2016 infection rates going up 73 percent from 2015.
Lyme disease is the second most reported illness with 36,429 cases, almost double the number of cases in 2004. If left unchecked, Lyme disease can affect the heart and nervous system, and is commonly transmitted by blacklegged ticks.
While the sharp uptick in cases can be alarming, researchers also warn that it’s not the whole picture—the actual number of cases could be even higher, since many infections go unreported.
The rising number of infections is the result of many factors, which could include an increase in the population of the insects that carry diseases, or vectors, and the number of people who unknowingly bring these diseases back home from their travels outside of the country.
Another likely reason is climate change. With warmer temperatures and shorter cold seasons, vectors can expand to new areas, according to Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.
The CDC admitted that more than 80 percent of vector-control organizations across the United States do not have the needed capacity to prevent and contain these demanding illnesses which tend to spread fast like wildfire.