According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vectorborne disease cases tripled in the U.S. from 2004-2016. Since 2004, nine new pathogens spread by mosquitoes and ticks have been discovered or introduced. Commerce and transportation can move vectors and pests across borders and around the world. Infected travelers can introduce and spread pathogens across the globe. Rodents, fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks can move disease-causing organisms into new areas of our cities, such as suburban and rural areas, putting more people in our communities at risk. New pathogens, such as chikungunya and Zika, have caused outbreaks in the U.S. for the first time. Recall last month's column where I mentioned the impact of climate change on vectors and the pathogens they carry.
Mosquito-borne and tickborne disease epidemics are happening more frequently. A case in point is the spread of Lyme disease in the U.S. Each year more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported nationwide. It is estimated by CDC that there are actually 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S.
Another example is a pest of environmental and public health interest that has been confronted by many environmental health professionals over the last decade--the bed bug. Although bed bugs are not a vector (i.e., disease causing), it is a pest that can cause both physical and mental health problems. Many health departments and environmental health professionals have had to spend their limited resources to control bed bugs in their communities.
Another problem is that 80% of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capabilities. State and local environmental health programs face increasing demands to respond to these outbreaks and vector and pest threats. Environmental health programs and professionals need the training, resources, and skills to deal with this ever-increasing threat. More proven and publicly accepted vector and pest control and prevention methods are needed.
While working at CDC, Captain Michael Herring and I developed a vector and pest control course in collaboration with the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and a group of subject matter expects. We had heard the concerns more than a decade ago from environmental health professionals about the threats in their communities from an increase in vector and pest problems. Environmental health professionals also lacked the training and skills needed to deal with this...