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Diseases & Topics

Vector-Borne Diseases

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Bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas are collectively called "vector-borne diseases" (the insects and arthropods are the "vectors" that carry the diseases). Although the term "vector" can also apply to other carriers of disease — such as mammals that can transmit rabies or rodents that can transmit hantavirus — those diseases are generally called zoonotic (animal-borne) diseases.

Some vector-borne diseases have a long history in the United States — like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Eastern equine encephalitis — while others, like West Nile virus and dengue fever, have only recently been introduced to this country. Flea-borne diseases such as plague are not usually found in North Carolina, but plague is also a zoonotic disease that can be contracted by handling infected animals. Viral hemorrhagic fevers may also be transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes or ticks, or by crushing ticks. Epidemic typhus is carried by human body lice.

Most vector-borne diseases can infect animals as well as people. Since they are spread primarily by insects and arthropods, they can be difficult to prevent and control.

The most common vector-borne diseases found in North Carolina are carried by ticks and mosquitoes. The tick-borne illnesses most often seen in the state are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). The most frequent mosquito-borne illnesses, or "arboviruses," in North Carolina include La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis

Maps showing the distribution of reported mosquito-borne illness across North Carolina are available in Facts & Figures.

Maps and graphs of reported tick-borne illnesses in North Carolina are available in Facts & Figures.

Bed bugs continue to be a growing problem across the United States, and are experiencing a global resurgence. Fortunately, they are not known to carry human disease, and therefore do not fall under the umbrella of public health. If you are have concerns of a bed bug infestation in your home, please reach out to a licensed pest control professional.

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