With the caveat that many tickborne infections go unreported - and that the actual numbers are almost certainly much higher - according to the CDC 2017 set a record for the most reported tickborne infections in the United States.
There is a growing realization that the public health burden of tick and other vector borne diseases is likely much greater than previously appreciated.
- In 2013, the CDC revised their Estimate Of Yearly Lyme Disease Diagnoses In The United States, indicating that the number of Lyme Disease diagnoses in the country is probably closer to 300,000 than the 30,000 that are officially reported each year to the CDC.
- A little over six years ago (see New Phlebovirus Discovered In Missouri) we learned about the new `Heartland Virus’ which made headlines when it was detected in two Missouri farmers with no epidemiological links and living 60 miles apart. Since then the number of cases – while small – has continued to grow (see MMWR: Heartland Virus Disease — United States, 2012–2013).
- SFTS or Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome - a tickborne Phlebovirus - was first discovered in China in 2009, but has been reported in Japan & Korea as well. It is genetically similar to the recently identified Heartland Virus (see MMWR: Heartland Virus Disease — United States, 2012–2013) and to a Novel Bunyavirus In Livestock – Minnesota first reported in 2013.
The latest numbers on Tickborne diseases (for 2017) can be found at:
Yesterday the CDC published the following media statement on these latest numbers and ways to help protect again becoming infected.
Record Number of Tickborne Diseases Reported in U.S. in 2017
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 14, 2018
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show tickborne diseases are again on the rise. In 2017, state and local health departments reported a record number of cases of tickborne disease to CDC.
Cases of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis, spotted fever rickettsiosis (including Rocky Mountain spotted fever), babesiosis, tularemia, and Powassan virus disease all increased—from 48,610 cases in 2016 to 59,349 cases in 2017. These 2017 data capture only a fraction of the number of people with tickborne illnesses. Under-reporting of all tickborne diseases is common, so the number of people actually infected is much higher.
This increase follows an accelerating trend of tickborne diseases reported in the United States. Between 2004 and 2016, the number of reported cases of tickborne disease doubled, and researchers discovered seven new tickborne pathogens that infect people. The new data are from the Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS). NNDSS tracks and monitors diseases of public health importance in the United States, including six reportable tickborne disease groups.
Reason for record number of tickborne diseases not clear
While the reason for this increase is unclear, a number of factors can affect tick numbers each year, including temperature, rainfall, humidity, and host populations such as mice and other animals. Tick densities in any year vary by region, state, and county. Numbers of reported tickborne disease cases are also affected by healthcare provider awareness, testing, and reporting practices. Finally, during any given year, people may or may not notice changes in tick populations depending on the amount of time they or their pets spend outdoors.
According to a recent CDC Vital Signs, the United States is not fully prepared to control these threats. Local and state health departments and vector control organizations face increasing demands to respond to ticks and tickborne diseases. Proven and publicly accepted methods are needed to better prevent tick bites and to control ticks and tickborne diseases.
Steps to protect against tickborne diseases
Until improved prevention and control methods are available, you can reduce your chances of being bitten by a tick by:
- Using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions.
- Treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Checking your body and clothing for ticks upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.
- Place tick-infested clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. Showering soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good time to do a tick check.
- 2017 Tickborne Disease Surveillance Data: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/data-summary/index.html
- Notifiable Infectious Diseases and Conditions Annual Data Tables: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/nndss/infectious-tables.html#tabs-2-2
- Information about Lyme disease surveillance: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/survfaq.html
- Digital Press Kit, Lyme and other tickborne diseases: Prevention is key in fight against tickborne disease: https://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/diseases-and-conditions/lyme-disease/index.html
- Vital Signs, Illnesses on the rise from mosquito, tick, and flea bites: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/vector-borne/index.html
- CDC Ticks website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/