Call in the Swat Team: Texas Tackling Vector-Borne Diseases
By David Doolittle

June 18 TM Cover Story_Jane Siegel600

Vector-borne illnesses have been vexing physicians for centuries. And they still are.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), illnesses caused by mosquitoes, ticks, and other vectors kill about 700,000 people worldwide each year.

Texas’ warm climate makes it a prime breeding ground for illnesses such as West Nile virus, murine typhus, Zika virus, and other nasty maladies.

In fact, between 2004 and 2016, Texas saw more than 6,000 cases of mosquito-borne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That includes a spike of 1,992 cases in 2012, almost all of which (1,868) were cases of West Nile virus, CDC reports.

During that time, 2,140 cases of tickborne diseases were reported, CDC figures show.

Just in time for summer, the June issue of Texas Medicine magazine takes an in-depth look at vector-borne diseases in the Lone Star State.

“Texas is probably the most vulnerable state in the union to these diseases,” said Peter J. Hotez, MD, head of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Texas has all the conditions for vector-borne illnesses to get worse — an exploding population, fast-growing international trade, a warming climate, large pockets of poverty, and lots of the wrong kinds of insects. In addition, numerous roadblocks stymie the availability of new vaccines.  

Unfortunately, experts say testing for such diseases can be difficult, and the state’s methods of disease surveillance remain inadequate.

To help curb the spread of vector-borne illnesses, TMA backed several bills during the 2017 legislative session.

Meanwhile, TMA’s Committee on Infectious Diseases is working on education efforts to teach Texas physicians about vector-borne illnesses that are frequently misdiagnosed or missed altogether. 

Check out the full story, as well as the entire June issue of Texas Medicine, on the TMA website.

Mosquito-Born and Tickborne Disease Cases, 2004-2016

 About the data:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, Annual Tables of Infectious Disease Data. Atlanta, GA. CDC Division of Health Informatics and Surveillance, 2005-2017.

Last Updated On

June 05, 2018

David Doolittle


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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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