Nice weather has arrived at last, but based on a recent CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) report, you should take precautions before you head to the great outdoors. If not, you could end up with serious health concerns after a leisurely stroll in the woods.
Vector-borne diseases, those transmitted through bites from ticks, mosquitos and fleas, have more than tripled in recent years. Nine new diseases have been discovered or introduced to the Americas.
Along with Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, the Plague and other ills, we now need to protect ourselves from Zika virus, the Heartland and Bourbon viruses, Borrelia miyamotoi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria, Rickettsia parkeri, Rickettsia 364D, Ehrlichia species and chikungunya.
Once infected, a person may need weeks, months or even years to recover. In some cases, people never recover. In certain cases they are fatal.
The best way to protect yourself is to wear long sleeves, long pants, socks, closed toe shoes, and hats. It's recommended that shoes and clothes be sprayed or embedded with the insect repellent permethrin. Any exposed skin should be sprayed with an approved insect repellent such as DEET.
A few factors that contribute to the increase in these diseases are jet travel, warmer temperatures, reforestation of land and a lack of vaccines.
In the past, when travel to other countries was done by sailing ship, vector-borne diseases took longer to be transferred. With jet travel, people may begin their journey before they even know they have been infected. Once in a new country a tick, mosquito or flea may bite them rapidly, spreading an infection to new locations.
As suburban housing spreads into forested areas, more and more people are living in tick-friendly environments. More deer, mice and other mammals who can transport ticks live in closer proximity to people than ever before as their natural environments dwindle.
Areas that were once uninhabited, or minimally inhabited, such as farmland, are being converted to forested suburbia as the human population increases.
Climate change may or may not contribute. Warmer winters mean more pests, but only up to a point. Once areas become too hot or dry, mosquitos, for example, can't thrive.
In short, the factors are very complicated, and not all scientists agree on exactly why there has been an increase. But everyone does agree that it's wise to take precautions when going outside, and to see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have been infected.
- Illnesses from Mosquito, Tick, and Flea Bites Increasing in the US, cdc.gov
- Donald G. McNeil, Tick and Mosquito Infections Spreading Rapidly, nytimes.com
- Gina Cherelus, Tick, mosquito-borne infections surge in United States: CDC , reuters.com