Thursday, May 31, 2018

Get Ready Mailbag: What’s up with vector-borne diseases?

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you! Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

I hear that vector-borne diseases are on the rise. What’s that about and what can I do about it?

You heard right. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this month that vector-borne diseases have increased. And they’ve increased a lot. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

But first, let’s explain what we’re talking about here. Vector-borne diseases are the diseases you get from bug bites. Most often, that means mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. They tend to get the disease from animals and then pass it on to humans when they bite.

The new CDC study said illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. More than 640,000 cases were reported from 2004 through 2016. (That’s a lot of bug bites!) We’re talking diseases like Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

As climate change is making the U.S. hotter, the bugs that spread these diseases are moving around to new, warmer locations in the US and infecting more people.

So what can you do? The most important way to fight vector-borne diseases is to protect yourself.

That means wearing insect repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants. You should find and remove ticks daily from family and pets when they go outdoors. Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours from dusk until dawn.

And install screens on the windows in your home and repair screens with rips or tears.

Photo: Ticks can be the size of a poppyseed, including the five shown on this muffin, CDC says. (Photo courtesy CDC) 

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