Diseases Spread by Ticks and Other Insects Have More Than TRIPLED

When you go outdoors this spring or summer, make sure you cover up and do what is necessary to repel insects. A report released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that in the U.S., diseases spread by tick, flea, and mosquito bites more than tripled from 2004 to 2016. During that period, more than 640,000 cases of vector-borne diseases were reported. So, you should probably be careful this year, too. [1]

Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC, warned:

“People really do need to take this seriously.”

It was the first time the CDC has collectively examined the trends for diseases that are spread by insects. According to Petersen, the goal of the study was to gain a better understanding of growing burden of illnesses such as Zika, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus in the U.S.

The report, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that the number of reported cases of vector-borne diseases increased from 27,388 cases in 2004 to more than 96,000 cases in 2016. Experts say that number might actually be much higher, partly because many infections go unreported and unrecognized. [2]

The increase in vector-borne diseases can largely be attributed to ticks and mosquitoes, the authors state in the report, with ticks being responsible for 77% of all reports. In fact, diseases caused by tick bites doubled during the time period, with Lyme disease accounting for 82% of all tick-borne disease reports. Fleas can spread disease, too, including the plague, but those numbers are considerably lower.

From 2004 to 2016, there were 9 insect-spread diseases reported in the U.S. and U.S. territories, including Zika, chikungunya, Heartland virus, Bourbon virus, and others.

Read: Fears of Tick-Borne Powassan Virus Increasing, Experts Warn

Petersen said:

“The data show that we’re seeing a steady increase and spread of tick-borne diseases, and an accelerating trend of mosquito-borne diseases introduced from other parts of the world. We need to support state and local health agencies responsible for detecting and responding to these diseases and controlling the mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas that spread them.”

The Rise in Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

 

Humans haven’t suddenly become more tasty to mosquitoes. The increase in mosquito-borne diseases is largely due to the fact that people are traveling and accessing different parts of the world on a growing scale, and diseases “hitch a ride” with them back to the U.S.

“All someone needs to do is pick up one of these viruses and fly back to the United States. If a local mosquito bites them, it can cause an outbreak. That’s what happened with Zika.”

Outbreaks of other diseases like West Nile virus tend to be triggered by climate and weather, with warmer weather coinciding with outbreaks.

Petersen explained that warmer temperatures can make mosquitoes get infected faster, and also make them more infectious. [2]

He explained:

“The amount of virus in the mosquito increases, and when it bites you, more virus gets into you and the chances of you getting infected and becoming sick goes up.”

Avoiding Mosquitoes

There are plants you can put in your garden to repel mosquitoes including citronella and marigolds, and homemade mosquito repellents can be equally effective.

Wearing long sleeves and pants can prevent mosquito bites, but that’s not always feasible when it’s 95 degrees outside. Other methods of preventing mosquito bites include using an air-conditioner whenever possible, and patching holes in window and door screens. [3]

To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, make sure there are no areas of stagnant, standing water near your home.

Increases in Tick-Borne Illnesses

 

More people are living in wooded areas these days, which could help explain the increase in tick-borne illnesses. There are more deer in the woods, and deer are a popular host for ticks. However, as wooded and rural areas are replaced with suburban neighborhoods, tick bites are becoming increasingly common.

The changing climate is also said to play a role in the increase in tick-borne diseases and the spread of the insects’ geographic range, which has steadily grown in the past 20 years. [1] [2]

As temperatures have increased, ticks have been able to spread further north, putting more people at risk. Petersen said that “when the tick season is longer, people are exposed over longer periods.” [2]

Petersen said:

“We desperately need to find new ways to deal with ticks and mosquitoes. We need better ways of controlling them and better diagnostic tools.” [1]

He added that the CDC is helping to provide funding for states to increase their ability to respond to emerging vector-borne diseases. Recently, the agency’s funding was increased to $8.3 billion for 2018.

Avoiding Ticks

To avoid ticks, take these simple steps:

  • Cover your ankles by wearing long pants and tucking them into your socks when you’re outdoors.
  • Do tick checks. You can’t always feel a tick bite, so it’s important to give yourself a once-over to make sure you don’t have a tick embedded in your skin or the tell-tale bullseye rash that comes with a tick bite.
  • Check your pets. Ticks can sicken your pets, too, and they can bring them into the house.
  • Ticks like long grass, so keep your grass mowed; create barriers between your yard and wooded areas with wood chips, mulch, or gravel; and remove wood piles, and stones where mice, chipmunks, and squirrels like to hide.
  • When hiking, stay on the center of the trail and avoid contact with vegetation.

There are commercial bug repellents on the market that can protect you from mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects as well – just know they are loaded with questionable chemicals.

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] The Washington Post

[3] WebMD

Houseflies Carry 100’s of Diseases – Cause for Concern?

Flies are kind of disgusting, and definitely annoying. Since they’re so small and incredibly common, you might just swat them away when they land on your food and keep eating, but a study reveals that the little nuisances are even germier than previously thought. In fact, they can carry hundreds of different types of bacteria on their legs and wings. Cause for concern, or just disgustingly interesting? [1]

Researcher Donald Bryant of Penn State University said:

“People had some notion that there were pathogens that were carried by flies but had no idea of the extent to which this is true and the extent to which they are transferred.” [2]

He added:

“[The study] will really make you think twice about eating that potato salad that’s been sitting out at your next picnic. We believe that this may show a mechanism for pathogen transmission that has been overlooked by public health officials, and flies may contribute to the rapid transmission of pathogens in outbreak situations.”

Source: Mom.me – Housefly

For the study, researchers from Penn State, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro looked at data from 16 houseflies and blowflies collected from 3 different continents and sequenced the animals’ DNA to study their microbes.

The team found that houseflies carried about 351 different bacteria species, and the blowflies carried approximately 316. Both types of flies carried some of the same strains of bacteria.

The most common bacteria was determined to be Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, which can cause ulcers in the gut. Prior to the study, scientists hadn’t considered flies as a means of transmission for the bacteria.

Professor of genetics and genomics, Ana Carolina Junqueira said:

“This is the first study that depicts the entire microbial DNA content of insect vectors using unbiased methods.

Blowflies and houseflies are considered major mechanical vectors worldwide, but their full potential for microbial transmission was never analyzed comprehensively using modern molecular techniques and deep DNA sequencing.” [3]

Source: Wikipedia – Blowfly

Houseflies and blowflies pose the greatest risk to human health because they feed their young with feces and decaying organic matter, according to study co-author Stephan Schuster.

He explained:

“The legs and wings show the highest microbial diversity in the fly body, suggesting that bacteria use the flies as airborne shuttles. It may be that bacteria survive their journey, growing and spreading on a new surface. In fact, the study shows that each step of hundreds that a fly has taken leaves behind a microbial colony track, if the new surface supports bacterial growth.”

So the next time you see a fly wobbling back and forth on Grandma’s jello mold, it may be time to reach for the trash can.

The findings of the nauseating study are published in Scientific Reports.

Sources:

[1] Gizmodo

[2] Pulse Headlines

[3] New York Post

Mom.me

Wikipedia

Doctors Find 4 Sweat Bees in Woman’s Eyes, Living Off of Her Tears

Sweat bees are a common nuisance in the summertime, but they’re much less frightening than, say, hornets or wasps. Still, you wouldn’t want to have a sweat bee in your body. Yet, a Taiwanese woman experienced just that. Doctors discovered 4 of the winged creatures living in the woman’s eye, where they were feeding off of her salty tears.

The woman, 29, couldn’t figure out what had caused her eye to swell shut. She was overcome with pain and her eyes seemed to water constantly. She figured she had some sort of infection, but she didn’t understand why it kept getting worse and worse.

The patient, known only as “He,” sought treatment at Fooyin University Hospital in Taiwan, where doctors told her she didn’t have an infection at all. As Hung Chi-ting, the hospital’s head of ophthalmology, peered into He’s eyes with a microscope, he saw tiny legs wiggling from one of her eye sockets.

From there, he proceeded to remove 4 intact sweat bees, all alive, 1 by 1 from He’s eyelid.

Hung Chi-ting explained during a press conference that the tiny bees had been craving salt, which they found in He’s tears. The insects set up shop under the woman’s eyelid, in what the doctor called a “world first.”

“I saw something that looked like insect legs, so I pulled them out under a microscope slowly, and 1 at a time without damaging their bodies.”

How in the World Did This Happen?

So, how did 4 sweat bees end up turning He’s eye into a buffet? She believes she acquired the uninvited visitors while participating in the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day.

He said:

“I was visiting and tidying a relative’s grave with my family. I was squatting down and pulling out weeds.”

[Note to self: Just let the damn weeds grow next time.]

At some point during the day, He felt something get in her eye. She splashed a bit of water in her eye, believing it to be a little harmless dirt. But when her eyes started to swell up later that night and she began to experience a stinging pain that made her eyes water up, she wrongly assumed she was coming down with some sort of infection.

It turns out that sweat bees tend to nest near graves and in the mountains.

Fortunately, He kept herself from rubbing her eyes too much, which could have caused blindness. The woman was found to be suffering from cellulitis and severe corneal erosion because of the bees. [2]

Hung said:

“Thankfully she came to the hospital early, otherwise I might have had to take her eyeball out to save her life.”

Despite several hours of excruciating pain and increasing worry, He will not have any lasting repercussions from the buzzing parasites.

Matan Shelomi, an associate professor of entomology at National Taiwan University, said: [1]

“The woman will be fine. The bees will be fine. This is not something that people need to concern themselves with. I don’t expect we’ll ever see this again.”

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] CNN