Roundup: Insect-Borne Disease, Living Longer and Depression

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May 4, 2018


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Diseases From Mosquito, Flea and Tick Bites Have Tripled in U.S., CDC Says

Cases of diseases in the U.S. contracted by mosquito, tick or flea bites have tripled from 2004 to 2016, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Such disease can include dengue, Zika, Lyme disease, or even the plague. During that 12-year period, more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported, and nine new germs spread by bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the U.S., the CDC found.

With the rainy season almost bearing down on South Florida, where mosquito-borne diseases are frequently a threat, the CDC statistics are alarming. Since the beginning of the CDC study in 2004, the most severe mosquito-led disease outbreaks have been limited to mostly U.S. territories, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. These epidemics include dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus and Zika.

“Zika, West Nile, Lyme disease and chikungunya—a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea—have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “Our nation’s first lines of defense are state and local health departments and vector control organizations, and we must continue to enhance our investment in their ability to fight against these diseases.”

Mosquito-borne diseases dengue, Zika and chikungunya have struck South Florida in recent years, although local outbreaks have been controlled. But a separate study issued last month by the World Health Organization indicates climate change and an increase in international travel could revive these threats to higher levels.

The CDC’s new report says that the U.S. is not fully prepared. Here are the agency’s key findings:

  • Local and state health departments and mosquito-control teams face increasing demands to respond to these threats.
  • More than 80 percent of vector control organizations report needing improvement in one or more of five core competencies, such as testing for pesticide resistance.
  • More proven and publicly accepted mosquito and tick control methods are needed to prevent and control these diseases.

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These Five Lifestyle Factors Can Prolong Your Life by 12 Years or More

Committing to five low-risk lifestyle factors – never smoking, keeping a healthy weight, regular physical activity, a healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption – could prolong life expectancy at age 50 by 14 years for women and 12.2 years for men, compared to adults who adopt none of these habits, a new study has found.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that the average 50-year old woman who follows all five healthy habits could live to age 93. Men could live to about age 88. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations worldwide, but Americans have a shorter life expectancy compared with residents of almost all other “high-income countries,” ranking 31st in the world for life expectancy at birth in 2015, the researchers wrote. Americans currently have a shorter average life expectancy — 79.3 years — than almost all other high-income nations.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, states that many of the most common and costly diseases to treat, such as cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions, “are largely preventable.”

Harvard researchers and colleagues looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women and 27 years of data from 44,354 men participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, respectively.

The researchers focused on how five low-risk lifestyle factors — not smoking, low body mass index or BMI, at least 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, moderate alcohol intake (for example, up to about one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for women, or up to two glasses for men), and a healthy diet — might impact mortality.

Compared with those who did not follow any of the healthy lifestyle habits, those who adhered to all five were 74 percent less likely to die during the study period.

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Loneliness is a Growing Problem in U.S., Raising Mental Health Concerns, New Survey Finds

A nationwide survey by the health insurer Cigna has found that loneliness is major problem in America, with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting they feel alone or left out always or sometimes. Loneliness can have an impact on an individual’s mental and physical health.

Several studies in recent years have established public health impact of loneliness. It has been linked with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Loneliness and mental health issues have been found to influence our genes and our immune systems, and even recovery from cancer.

Cigna surveyed 20,000 adults online across the U.S. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), calculated a loneliness score based on responses. Scores on the UCLA scale range from 20 to 80. People scoring 43 and above were considered lonely, with a higher score indicating a higher degree of loneliness and social isolation.

The survey found that the average loneliness score in the U.S. is 44, suggesting that “most Americans are considered lonely,” the report says.

“In analyzing this closely, we’re seeing a lack of human connection, which ultimately leads to a lack of vitality – or a disconnect between mind and body,” said David M. Cordani, president and chief executive officer of Cigna, in a statement. “We must change this trend by reframing the conversation to be about ‘mental wellness’ and ‘vitality’ to speak to our mental-physical connection. When the mind and body are treated as one, we see powerful results.”

Some of the survey’s other findings include:

  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).

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