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Vector-borne Diseases in the United States

Updated on December 5, 2010

Vector-borne diseases are making a comeback in the United States and Europe. A vector-borne disease is spread by organisms, such as insects and rodents. Mosquitoes and ticks are among the most dangerous carriers of infectious diseases. People who live in tropical climates run the biggest risk of acquiring vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, and various forms of encephalitis, to name a few.

Causes of vector-borne diseases

While in the past people who traveled to the tropics have been the most susceptible to these types of infectious diseases, today such trends as climate changes (global warming), increased urbanization, and land use practices are thought to increase the spread of such diseases to the United States and parts of Europe. An outbreak of dengue in Key West, Florida in January, 2010 was unexpected and a research study revealed that as many as 5% of all residents of Key West had their blood test positive for the disease.

Dengue in Key West

The dengue infection in Florida was thought to be travel-related as are most cases of vector-borne diseases. The Aedes aegypti mosquito carries this particular disease. Studies are currently underway to determine if this was a one-time infection or if the conditions for the spread of dengue fever are present in that location. The last case was reported there in 1934.

Dengue is most prevalent in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. There have been outbreaks in Brownsville, TX, which sits just across from the Mexican border. Around 40% of the residents are believed to have the virus in their blood. While dengue is not usually fatal, it is painful and debilitating. It can also be prevented by aggressive mosquito management techniques. Health officials went door to door to eliminate mosquito infestations.

West Nile Scare

The presence of the West Nile Virus on the East Coast also has increased public awareness of infectious diseases and the causes of these diseases. Originally West Nile was found in parts of Africa, Southern European countries, and the Middle East. It has been found across the U.S. in spotty locations from New York to Washington State.

While the 3000 species of mosquitoes are a profound threat for vector-borne diseases, ticks, sand flies and black flies also spread their share of disease. Ticks are well-known for spreading Lyme Disease, relapsing fever, tick-borne encephalitis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, among others.

So, how do you prevent vector-borne diseases from making you ill or even taking your life?

The best way is to prevent insect bites, and the two most successful methods of accomplishing this goal are with the use of netting and pesticides. The netting of the SansBug tent is perfect for keeping mosquitoes, ticks and other problem insects at bay. Take one with you if you plan to travel to regions of the world where outbreaks of infectious diseases are possible. The tents are roomy and pop up in a second. The SansBug can provide you with a clean and insect-free environment for lodging.

Vector-borne diseases are most often spread in poor communities -- those without good water, air conditioning or heating systems. Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti are among the types of natural disasters which can precipitate the spread of vector-borne diseases. The use of the SanBug tent in Haiti and in other countries where volunteers have relocated to assist in disaster relief has prevented many from becoming ill and bringing viruses back to their homelands.


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