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In the Southern United States, hotter, wetter weather has caused an increase in mosquito populations and cases of the infectious diseases they carry. Among mosquito-borne illness, West Nile virus, carried primarily by Culex mosquitos, and imported malaria, which is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, are most prevalent. While malaria was declared eliminated in the U.S. in the early 1950s, mosquito species that harbor the illness continue to live in certain Southern states, and infected international travelers returning from endemic regions warrant continued vigilance for this disease.1
Mosquitos aren’t the only insects to thrive in hot, southern environs. Among tick-borne illnesses, spotted fever rickettsiosis including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, which is carried by both the American and brown dog tick, and ehrlichiosis, which is transmitted by the lone star tick (Amblyommy americanum), are most commonly found. Less commonly, Lyme disease and tularemia cases are also seen. Imported cases of Chagas disease, which is caused by the parasite Trypanosmoa cruzi and transmitted to humans by insects known as “kissing bugs” (or Reduviid bugs), can also be seen, and rare cases of locally-acquired infections have also been reported in the South. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 individuals with Chagas disease, nearly all of whom were infected in Latin American, live in the U.S.2
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of mosquito-borne disease in the Southeast United States are increasing. Our map highlights cases of mosquito-borne illness reported in 2004, 2011, and 2018.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that across the Southeast United States, cases of tick-borne illness have risen substantially. Cases of tick-borne disease reported in 2004, 2011, and 2018 are demonstrated.
~2,000 cases of malaria diagnosed in the U.S. each year3
46% increase in cases of spotted fever from 2016 to 20174
For individuals suspected of having vector-borne infectious disease, early diagnosis and treatment are critical to prevent further harm. Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ arsenal of vector-borne disease testing includes serological and molecular evaluations for common and rare illness most prevalent in the Southern U.S. Not only do we offer testing for individual disease states, such as a newly released PCR test for Powassan virus, but comprehensive panels that evaluate for a number of vector-borne conditions that present with similar symptoms.
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