The CDC issued a report this past week highlighting dramatic increases in the rates of infectious diseases spread by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes — otherwise known as “vector-borne diseases.” That list includes some long-familiar scourges, such as Lyme disease; some rather new to our lexicon in this part of the world, including Zika; some seemingly resurrected from Medieval parchment, like plague; and some long considered someone else’s problem, like dengue.
Covered by all of the major news outlets, the report is as important for what it barely says, as for what it asserts explicitly and emphatically. What’s emphatic is that rates of vector-borne disease have more than tripled in the U.S. in the past decade alone. That toll involves both more of the diseases we had reason to dread all along, such as Lyme, and threats formerly all but unknown here — such as the tropical disease, Chikungunya. What is explicit is that our public health and environmental systems are ill-prepared to contain this threat. Our resources are inadequate across the spectrum of treatment, surveillance, prevention, and control of the vector populations.