CDC: Illnesses from mosquito, tick & flea bites have tripled

Experts detail steps to take to protect yourself and loved ones

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The risk of coming down with an illness as a result of mosquito, tick and flea bites is on the rise in the U.S., according to new information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reports cases of illness linked to those bites have tripled between 2004 and 2016, while nine new germs from mosquito and tick bites were discovered or introduced to the country during that time.

In light of the growing risk, health and pest experts are warning people to take the proper steps to protect themselves and loved ones before they go outside.

Kevin Jones, assistant general manager for Brandon Pest Control, said mosquitoes only need a small amount of water, like you might find in a cup left outside, for mosquitoes to breed.

"You just got to think like a mosquito. I know that sounds weird, but you're going to have to think very small," Jones told News4Jax during an interview Monday.

When it comes to ticks, Jones said they're frequently found in overgrown grass and shrubs. In addition, they'll hitch a ride on animals and rodents before transferring to humans.

With people venturing outside more during the summer, Jones said, it's important to do a weekly sweep around the house to check for standing water, tall grass and other areas where pests can be found.

In addition, people can protect themselves by covering as much skin as possible with clothing, wearing EPA-approved bug repellent (preferably something containing DEET), and screening children for ticks.

Katherine Ebsworth-Mojica, pediatric infectious disease specialist for Memorial Hospital, said ticks tend to gravitate toward places with crevices where they can hide -- for instance, the ears, groin and armpits.

"You should always do tick checks regularly, especially on kids," she said.

She said that if you do get sick from a bug bite, it may be difficult to tell at first. "You may have body aches, pains, headaches... You can also have malaise, you can have fevers," she said.

If a high fever or rash persists, she said, it's a good idea to go see the doctor.

Ebsworth-Mojica said people should reach for a credit card if they find a tick on themselves, noting that tweezers an leave the tip of the tick's mouth embedded in their skin.