CDC Warns illnesses on the rise from mosquito, tick, and flea bites

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - Almost everyone has been bitten by a mosquito, tick, or flea. These insects can spread germs if it is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls a "vector." A person who gets bitten by a vector and gets sick has a vector-borne disease, like dengue, Zika, Lyme, or plague, to name a few.

A new CDC Vital Signs Report stated between 2004 and 2016, more than 640,000 cases of these vector-born diseases were reported. The agency said that number means disease cases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites tripled during that time. They also discovered nine new germs spread by bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks in the United States during that twelve year period. The CDC said state and local health departments and vector control organizations are the nation’s main defense against this increasing threat. Yet, 84% of local vector control organizations lack at least one of five core vector control competencies.

Dr. John Brown at Mercy Hospital in Springfield shared there is one vector-born illness Missourians especially need to watch out for, ehrlichiosis. Dr. Brown said Missouri has the highest number of ehrlichiosis cases every year.

Ehrlichiosis is a disease stemming from the lone-star tick, the tick has a spot on it's back. The lone-star tick calls the woods in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas it's home. Symptoms of the illness are fever, chills, nausea and headaches. The symptoms can often be associated with other illnesses which delays response time. However, once it is noticed, it is treatable.

Doctor John Brown at Mercy says the number one key to prevention is using sprays and repellents containing deet. "Store shelves are filled with insect repellents, but they aren't all created equally," Dr. Brown said. "The most tested and most effective insect repellent is something that contains deet, deet is the active ingredient and you really need that to be 30-35% concentration or greater." Dr. Brown also said deet is safe for almost all ages, including pregnant mothers and new-born babies as young as two-months-old. He said it's been around for decades and there is plenty of research to support it.

He also said people don't need to be scared of every bug bite. He said just because a person gets bitten does not mean they'll come down with an illness. "Bites will be associated with itch, that doesn't indicate illness or a more significant disease," said Dr. Brown. "It's really those other accompanying symptoms fever, chills, nausea vomiting, and even confusion in a later case."

He also reminded people of the importance of removing a tick in its entirety, stating if any of the tick is left behind it can cause an infection.

A final tip from Doctor Brown is to pre-treat clothing with Permethrin if you're headed outside. It can usually be found right next to your bug sprays and repellents in stores.