Illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites, as well as presence of West Nile Virus and other diseases, have surged in New Jersey in recent years just as they’ve tripled in the U.S. over the past decade, according to state and federal officials (see list of NJ areas below).
The number of Lyme disease cases increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017 and they’ve more than doubled since 2006, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,432 cases in New Jersey. Last year, there were 5,091, according to the state Department of Health.
Other tick-borne illnesses rose by 36 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the state Department of Health.
While the number of West Nile Virus mosquito cases declined from 11 to 8 between 2016 to 2017, the number is lot higher than it was in 2004 and 2005, when there was one case each year, according to the DOH.
The potential for the virus to spread, however, rose sharply last year. In 2017, 861 out of 10,481 mosquito pools submitted for testing were positive for West Nile Virus. The number of positive pools is 93 percent higher than the total number of positive pools reported in 2016, according to the DOH.
Here is where the West Nile Virus positive pools were most prevalent:
The virus appears to be more prevalent in the more rural northern areas of the state.
The same is true for Lyme disease. Here are the reported county-by-county cases for 2015, the most recent year available, reported by the Lyme Disease Association:
- Morris 572
- Monmouth 530
- Hunterdon 457
- Sussex 309
- Ocean 290
- Middlesex 288
- Bergen 275
- Warren 269
- Burlington 258 tie
- Somerset 258 tie
- Mercer 249
- Passaic 244
- Essex 165
- Camden 138
- Gloucester 128
- Atlantic 114
- Union 107
- Cumberland 86
- Hudson 54
- Salem 37
- Cape May 27
The trend matches what’s happened nationally over the past 13 years. More than 640,000 cases involving mosquito, tick, and flea bites were reported across the United States 2004 through 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks – including one dangerous disease that’s appeared in New Jersey – were discovered or introduced into the United States during this time, according to a CDC release.
On top of that, a rare, potentially deadly tick-borne disease infected four people in New Jersey last year and health officials say it could be worse than Lyme disease. Four such cases appeared in 2017. Read more: Dangerous Tick-Borne Disease Spreads To NJ, CDC Warns
Also, a rare and exotic East Asian tick that was found on a Hunterdon County farm last fall has survived the winter, and has made its way into Union County, authorities confirmed last week. Read more: Rare Tick Located In Union County
The same tick that carries Lyme disease has caused Powassan, otherwise known as POW. It is a virus infection that can impact the nervous system, memory, thinking and balance. In some cases, it can be deadly, according to health officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it did kill a patient in Minnesota last year. Brain swelling from the virus is was what caused her death, officials say.
The CDC findings are in the agency’s latest “Vital Signs” report. This is CDC’s first summary collectively examining data trends for all nationally notifiable diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea. It provides detailed information on the growing burden of mosquito-borne and tick-borne illnesses in the U.S.
“Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and chikungunya—a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea—have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in the release.
“Our nation’s first lines of defense are state and local health departments and vector control organizations, and we must continue to enhance our investment in their ability to fight against these diseases.”
These widespread and difficult-to-control diseases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites are major causes of sickness and death worldwide. The growing number and spread of these diseases pose an increasing risk in the U.S., according to the release.
The report found that the nation needs to be better prepared to face this public health threat.
CDC scientists analyzed data for 16 notifiable vector-borne diseases from 2004 through 2016 to identify trends. Many infections are not reported or recognized, so it is difficult to truly estimate the overall cost and burden of these diseases, according to the release.
In 2016, the most common tick-borne diseases in the U.S. were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis. The most common mosquito-borne viruses were West Nile, dengue, and Zika. Though rare, plague was the most common disease resulting from the bite of an infected flea.
The increase in diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea in the U.S. is likely due to many factors. Mosquitoes and ticks and the germs they spread are increasing in number and moving into new areas. As a result, more people are at risk for infection. Overseas travel and commerce are more common than ever before, according to the release.
A traveler can be infected with a mosquito-borne disease, like Zika, in one country, and then unknowingly transport it home. Finally, new germs spread by mosquito and tick bites have been discovered and the list of nationally notifiable diseases has grown.
A total of 642,602 cases of disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea were reported in the U.S. and its territories from 2004 through 2016.
The number of reported tick-borne diseases more than doubled in 13 years and accounted for more than 60 percent of all reported mosquito-borne, tick-borne, and flea-borne disease cases. Diseases from ticks vary from region to region across the U.S. and those regions are expanding, according to the release.
From 2004 through 2016, seven new germs spread through the bite of an infected tick were discovered or recognized in the U.S. as being able to infect people.
Reducing the spread of these diseases and responding to outbreaks effectively will require additional capacity at the state and local level for tracking, diagnosing, and reporting cases; controlling mosquitoes and ticks; and preventing new infections; and for the public and private sector to develop new diagnostic and vector control tools, according to the release.
“The data show that we’re seeing a steady increase and spread of tickborne diseases, and an accelerating trend of mosquito-borne diseases introduced from other parts of the world,” said Lyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. “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.”
(Image via NJ Dept of Agriculture: Full and adult tick)
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