About the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases
Vector-Borne Threats and What We Do About Them
Vector-borne diseases are among the most complex of all infectious diseases to prevent and control. Not only is it difficult to predict the habits of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, but most vector-borne viruses or bacteria infect animals as well as humans. West Nile virus (WNV), which is primarily a disease of birds, is a good example.
Some vector-borne diseases sicken large numbers of people. Lyme disease now causes over 30,000 reported human cases annually in the U.S. Tickborne rickettsial diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis, are responsible for over 4,000 U.S. cases each year, including some that result in death. Dengue fever causes millions of cases worldwide, including over 23,000 cases in Puerto Rico in 2010. DVBD uses information about the number of cases, and when and where they occur, to aid health departments and other partners to reduce cases, save lives, reduce suffering, and reduce the financial impact to the public.
We also cover less common, but often deadly, threats. Yersinia pestis causes the ancient disease plague. Focal plague outbreaks occur in the southwestern U.S., and it is a significant health threat in Africa and Asia. We work with authorities to Uganda to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention—learning lessons that could help us respond to a bioterrorist use of plague at home.
Looking forward, we are preparing for the potential introduction of chikungunya virus to the Western Hemisphere. Chikungunya, which is transmitted by species of mosquitoes common in the southern U.S. and throughout Latin America, sickened more than 2 million people in the Indian Ocean in 2005-6. A single infected traveler returning to northern Italy resulted in 200 additional cases. Although dozens of infected travelers returned to the U.S., no local transmission was documented. The risk is clear, however, so CDC is working with the Pan-American Health Organization to develop guidelines to respond to chikungunya virus in the Americas.DVBD’s work in responding to existing and future threats is unique. The Division combines specialized epidemiology, ecology, laboratory and prevention expertise to respond to the challenges presented by vector-borne diseases. We work closely with state and local health departments, as well as partners in academia, industry and other federal agencies, and answer the call for expertise from international partners during epidemics.
- DVBD conducts surveillance, investigations, and studies of vector-borne viral, rickettsial, and bacterial diseases to define disease etiology and to develop effective methods and strategies for diagnosis, prevention, and control;
- DVBD conducts investigations on the biology, ecology, and control of arthropod vectors of viral, rickettsial, and bacterial diseases as a basis for development of new and/or modification of existing measures for more effective prevention and control;
- DVBD conducts or participates in clinical, field, and laboratory studies to develop, evaluate, and improve laboratory methods, materials, and therapeutic practices used for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of vector-borne infectious diseases;
- DVBD provides epidemic aid and epidemiology consultation, upon request, to state and local health departments, other federal agencies, and national and international health organizations;
- DVBD provides reference/diagnostic services for vector-borne viral, rickettsial, and bacterial diseases to state and local health departments, other federal agencies, and national and international health organizations;
- DVBD conducts research and collaborates on development and evaluation of vaccines;
- DVBD provides scientific and technical assistance to other CDC components when the work requires unique expertise or specialized equipment not available in other components;
- DVBD provides intramural and extramural technical expertise and assistance in professional training activities;
- DVBD serves as designated national and international references centers for vector-borne, viral, rickettsial, and bacterial diseases.
DVBD includes four branches, as well as an Office of the Director (Fort Collins, CO):
Arboviral Diseases Branch (Fort Collins, CO)
- Chikungunya Fever
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- Japanese Encephalitis
- LaCrosse Encephalitis
- Saint Louis Encephalitis
- West Nile Encephalitis
- Yellow Fever
Bacterial Diseases Branch (Fort Collins, CO)
- Bartonella Infection
(Cat Scratch Disease, Trench Fever, and Carrión's Disease)
- Lyme Disease
- Tickborne Relapsing Fever