CDC: Insect-borne illnesses increasing

Local News

Spring and summer months bring more people outdoors, and this time of year, many of us just shrug off bug bites as a seasonal annoyance.

However, new research may give you pause to reconsider. A new CDC report outlines that cases of disease carried by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas have tripled from 2004 to 2016.

Mandy Cummings has been keeping a closer eye on her little ones, Melina and Niko.

“My son has had four ticks on him playing, not like even necessarily in the woods. It was scary because they can get sick from Lyme disease,” said Cummings.

The new CDC study from from 2004 to 2016, close to 643,000 people received a disease from one of those infected bugs. Within that same timeframe, seven new germs were discovered to be spread from the bite of an infected tick. They also found the number of tickborne diseases have more than doubled in 13 years.

More online: Read the full study

“We did see lots of mosquitos last year that were positive for West Nile, and actually had one human case of West Nile last year, but we typically have one or less cases of West Nile in East Tennessee or Knox County each year,” said Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department.

That’s because East Tennessee is no stranger to mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. Once these pests start popping up, the health department begins monitoring, testing and spraying as part of its West Nile program.

“It’s proven to be effective. We’ve seen mosquitos and we’ve seen birds, but we don’t see a lot of human disease and that’s what it’s really about. The program is about preventing human disease and I believe it’s be effective,” said Buchanan.

The new study has Cummings even more focused on the safety of her kids. She’s planning ahead, knowing her kids won’t want to stay inside all summer.

“I’m going to try and keep them out of the deep woods at least and just make sure they have tick spray on them and make sure I’m checking them all the time,” she said.

The CDC recommends using a proper insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. There’s also an insecticide out there designed to be applied to clothing, shoes and socks or even a tent if you go camping. Look for the active ingredient permethrin.

You should also take steps to control ticks and fleas on your pets and if you find a tick on your pet, remove it immediately. 

Experts also recommend doing what you can to get rid of mosquitos, ticks and fleas both inside and outside your home.

  • Get rid of old tires, tin cans, buckets, or any water-holding containers
  • Fill in or drain any low places in the yard or driveway; keep drains, ditches, and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water will drain properly.
  • Cover trash containers.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets.
  • Empty wading pools at least once a week or more. Better yet, empty and store in between uses. Make sure your backyard pool is properly cared for while on vacation.
  • Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water with sand or concrete.
  • Change water in bird baths, plant pots or drip trays at least once a week or more.
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around the house.
  • Clean out guttering so water drains properly.
  • Treat bird baths, ornamental pools and plant saucers with mosquito dunks. These are available at most local hardware stores and contain bacteria which is harmless to people and pets but kills mosquito larvae.

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