Vectorborne Diseases

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Mosquitoborne Diseases

A variety of disease may be spread by Mosquitoes. The number of mosquitoes that are actually capable of causing infection in humans is relatively small, but it is always advisable to take preventive measures to protect yourself.

Diseases that can be Transmitted by Mosquitoes

While mosquitoborne disease is not as common in Minnesota as it is in tropical climates, there are several diseases that may occur within the state. Minnesota residents who travel to other countries can also return with tropical diseases such as malaria or dengue. The most commonly reported mosquitoborne disease in Minnesota is the West Nile Virus.

  • West Nile virus is a disease transmitted to people, horses, and birds. It is the most commonly reported mosquitoborne disease in Minnesota Most people infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms or flu-like symptoms, but some (primarily elderly) have more severe illness. West Nile virus was found in Minnesota in 2002 and will remain a public health concern in the foreseeable future.

Preventing Mosquitoborne Disease

Tickborne Diseases

A variety of diseases may be spread by ticks in Minnesota. The majority of tickborne diseases result from the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick). Preventing exposure to blacklegged ticks requires diligence.

Diseases that can be Transmitted by Ticks

In Minnesota, there are about a dozen different types of ticks. Not all of them spread disease but it is always best to protect yourself against tick bites. The most common ticks that people come across in Minnesota are the American dog tick (commonly known as the wood tick) and the blacklegged tick (commonly known as the deer tick). The blacklegged tick causes by far the most tickborne diseases in Minnesota. Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is a potentially serious bacterial infection affecting both humans and animals. It is the most common tickborne disease reported in Minnesota and in the United States.


Other Pests of Medical Interest

Besides ticks and mosquitoes, MDH often receives inquiries about various “bug” issues. Most of these insects or insect relatives do not carry diseases, but they can be a significant public health nuisance.

  • Head Lice- Head lice are tiny insects that make their home in human hair. Anyone can get head lice and it is fairly common in school-age children.
  • Bed Bugs– Bed bugs have received much attention in recent years, especially as travelers come into contact with infestations of this blood-feeding insect. They may be difficult to control without help from a pest control professional.
  • Asian Lady Beetles– Asian lady beetles have become a significant seasonal pest throughout much of Minnesota, as large numbers of beetles often invade homes in the autumn and spring.
  • Fleas– Fleas are common parasites of animals (especially cats and dogs) and sometimes bite people.
  • Cockroaches- Cockroaches are common pests within homes and other buildings.
  • Spiders– Spiders are often abundant within homes and surrounding yards. Most are harmless and rarely bite people, but a few species can cause a medically important bite.
  • Scabies– Human scabies mites live under the skin, and infested people often develop an itchy rash.
  • Delusional Parasitosis– Delusional parasitosis is a psychiatric condition where people have the mistaken belief that they are parasitized by bugs, worms, or other creatures.
  • Swimmer’s Itch- Swimmer’s itch is a common problem for people who swim in lakes and ponds during summer months. A small worm called a “fluke” burrows under the skin, creating itchy lesions.

Vectorborne Diseases and Climate Change

Climate change may influence the distribution and incidence of endemic vector-borne diseases in the U.S. Climate change could also facilitate re-emergence of formerly-endemic diseases, such as malaria, and introduction of new or emerging disease agents, or pathogens.




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