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Several Common Arthropod Pests That Infest Homes Can Also Spread Disease To Humans, But One Pest Is Capable Of Spreading Disease Only Within Southern Arizona Homes

Disease-spreading arthropod pests can be found throughout the US, the most common of which include mosquitoes, fleas, flies and cockroaches. Unlike mosquitoes and fleas, flies and cockroaches are “mechanical disease vectors,” which means that disease-causing pathogens do not live in concert with their physiology; instead, flies and cockroaches acquire pathogens from filthy conditions, such as sewers, porta potties, manure, and in the case of blow flies, rotting animal carcasses. The many pathogenic organisms that collect on the exterior body of flies and cockroaches are easily smeared on indoor surfaces, human food sources, and on humans themselves. This is why people should think twice before consuming food that has been exposed to even one fly or cockroach.

Mosquitoes and fleas acquire pathogens from the blood-meals they collect from infected birds and other animals. These pathogens rely on the biology of mosquitoes and fleas in order to survive and develop into infectious microorganisms. Infected mosquitoes and fleas transmit pathogens into the human bloodstream with their bites, causing disease. This makes fleas and mosquitoes “biological disease vectors.” Ticks are the most significant arthropod vectors in the US, as they transmit diseases to humans more frequently than any other arthropod vector in the country. For example, during 2013, the most common tick-borne disease, lyme disease, infected more than 36,000 people in the US, while the most common mosquito-borne disease, the west Nile virus, infected only 2,469 people in the country. Although lyme disease is not a threat in Arizona, the state currently sees the greatest number of people infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) when compared to all other US states.

The only tick species that establishes infestations in homes is the brown dog tick, but luckily for most Americans, this species generally does not spread disease to humans. However, brown dog ticks spread RMSF in a region of northern Mexico and southern Arizona, and this is the only area in the US were brown dog ticks spread disease to humans. Researchers have collected infected brown dog tick specimens from southern Arizona homes, and this species’ ability to spread disease within homes may explain the high rate of Rocky Mountain spotted fever infections in the state.

Have you ever found ticks in your home?



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