Tick and Mosquito-Related Diseases

May 01, 2019

Vector-Borne Diseases Are Increasing

Mosquitoes and ticks are warm-weather pests that can spoil any outdoor activity. They can also make you sick. Insects and other organisms that transmit disease are called vectors, and both ticks and mosquitoes are vectors for more harmful germs than ever before.

Rising Tide of Illnesses

Vector-borne diseases also include those transmitted by fleas and lice. Taken together, the number of illnesses from vectors in the United States tripled between 2004 and 2016. Some of these illnesses include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Zika virus
  • West Nile virus
  • Dengue fever

In addition to these established illnesses, nine new vector-borne diseases have been identified in the United States. These include diseases caused by the Heartland virus, the Bourbon virus and others.

These increases are caused in part by a warming climate. Spring comes earlier each year, giving ticks and mosquitoes more time to bite and infect people. The warming climate also allows these vectors to move into new areas.

An increase in worldwide travel also helps vectors spread disease. For example, a traveler who is bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus can unknowingly transport the infection home.

Protecting Yourself from Vector-Borne Disease

You can avoid these illnesses by protecting yourself from tick, mosquito and other insect bites. Follow these steps:

  • Use an insect repellent before you go outside. Apply it after sunscreen.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you’re outside.
  • Treat pants, boots, socks, tents and other outdoor items with the insecticide permethrin, or use gear that is pretreated with permethrin.
  • Find and remove ticks daily from pets.
  • Get rid of any standing water on your property, or empty and scrub any containers weekly. Water in tires, buckets, planters, birdbaths and other areas create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.