The carefree days of summer aren't so much these days due to mosquitos, ticks and fleas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported these creatures are more than just a summertime nuisance; they are increasingly becoming killers, and CDC officials forecast them to be out in record numbers this year.
In a recent article titled Illness on the Rise from Mosquito, Tick and Flea Bites, the CDC reports that disease cases tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016, with more than 640,000 cases of disease now linked to these insects.
Since the study began, nine new germs have been spawned by mosquitos, and the diseases spread by ticks has doubled from three to six. Fleas spread one disease -- the plague, which decimated the European population during the Dark Ages.
Kentucky is taking these threats seriously, warning citizens to do the same.
"Mosquitos have done more harm to human health and well-being than any other insect group," wrote Michael Potter and Mark Beavers, in a report published by the University of Kentucky.
All five kinds of mosquitos common to Kentucky can carry some form of debilitating disease like malaria, yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, Zika and West Nile, according to the University of Kentucky.
Potter and Beavers report mosquitos transmit the disease from other animals -- namely birds -- to humans. "There is no person-to-person transmission via mosquitoes because the virus concentration in human blood never reaches a sufficient level to infect biting mosquitoes."
Cases of West Nile disease have been reported in the Bluegrass State and have even affected the canine population.
"Lately, Kentucky has seen an outbreak of West Nile where mosquitos pass the disease to people and the chronic problem of heartworms to dogs," writes Potter and Beavers.
While there are many ways to ward off mosquitos, from insecticides to pungent plants to encouraging mosquito eating predators with bird or bat houses, Potter and Beavers suggest the best, most thorough method is killing them during infancy.
"Mosquitos undergo complete metamorphosis of four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. All stages except adult occur in water," according to the article. "The most effective way to control mosquitoes is to find and eliminate their breeding sites [usually by upturning or disposing of anything that holds water for more than a couple days]. ... The most effective biological control agents [for ponds, lakes or standing bodies of water] are predaceous fish, which feed voraciously on mosquito larvae."
The University of Kentucky reports ticks are opportunistic parasites that wait along
well-traveled paths for their victims to come by. Five different types can be found in the state, and each has the potential to transmit disease.
While ticks can carry disease, they don't automatically spread the disease, but Potter and Beavers report that the likelihood increases the longer the parasite is attached to a person. They encourage people to check for ticks soon and often.
"An infected tick usually has to attach and feed for several hours before it can transmit a disease organism to its host. Never crush or squeeze the tick's body, it may force disease organisms into the wound," the report reads. "Early detection and removal of ticks drastically reduces your risk of tick borne illnesses."
According to Potter and Beavers' article, fleas can still transmit the plague epidemic in humans and give dogs parasites, known as tapeworms. Fleas differ from mosquitos and ticks in that both of those pests are typically left outside. Not so with fleas. They thrive just as well inside the home as out.
Potter and Beavers explained that fleas have six stages in their lifecycle with staggered birth dates. This poses unique challenges for eradication because a new batch of juvenile fleas can be found at any stage of development to provide an ever-ready hoard.
Potter and Beavers offered that mosquitos, ticks and fleas can be largely diminished by keeping a manicured yard and ridding the property of overly shaded and dank areas where they congregate.
animals and the domicile with chemicals.
When dealing with chemical insecticides, Potter and Beavers write a methodical approach performed cyclically is best: "Effective flea control requires a systematic program consisting of inspection, client education, treatment of the pet and treatment of the premises."
Both the CDC and the University of Kentucky suggest the best defense against mosquitos, ticks and fleas is to get them before they get you.