CDC: Diseases from mosquito, tick, flea bites more than tripled from 2004-2016

- With summer right around the corner, it won't be long before the return of the unofficial state bird - the mosquito. And there may be even more of a reason to cover up this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016.

According to the study, nine new germs spread by mosquitos and ticks have been discovered or introduced since 2004. Additionally, about 80 percent of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities.

Almost everyone has been bitten by a mosquito, tick or flea. These can be vectors for spreading pathogens (germs). A person who gets bitten by a vector and gets sick has a vector-borne disease, like dengue, Zika, Lyme or plague.

The CDC reports that between 2004 and 2016, more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported.

Minnesota is one of top 10 states for diseases spread by ticks, with more than 12,000 reported during that 13 year period, according to the CDC.

The state health department said the number of cases of Lyme disease has exploded from a couple hundred a year in the 90's to up to 1,400 a year more recently.

"We don't want people to be afraid to go outside," said David Neitzel with MDH. "Our summers are short enough [..] there's a lot of health value in getting outside. We just want people to know about the risks that are out there and to take proper precautions against some of these illnesses."

The Metropolitan Mosquito Control District is considered one of the best in the country, and experts say identifying which mosquitos are a health risk and which are simply pests makes all the difference. 

"We have 51 different types of mosquitoes in Minnesota. They don't all carry disease and they don't all bother us [...] people around the country are catching up to that," said Mike Mclean with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District.

To combat the problem, the CDC urges state and local public health agencies to build and sustain programs that test and track germs and the mosquitoes and ticks that spread them. Agencies can also train vector control staff on core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities.

Residents can also learn how to prevent bites and control germs spread by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas in their communities, including the use of insect repellent.

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