Insects carry diseases, and these diseases can be deadly and devastating. The plague, also known as the Black Death, swept through the world in the 1300s, eliminating up to 60 percent of Europe’s population, as reported by the History Today. Scientists believe rat fleas carried the plague and transmitted the dangerous bacteria to human beings via trade routes. But contrary to popular belief, the plague is not over. According to CBS News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that plague is currently the most common disease resulting from the insect bites of infected fleas.

Insect bite illnesses have tripled in the last 13 years

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released by CBS News, states that more than 640,000 cases of dangerous insect-borne illnesses were reported across the country from 2004 to 2016. Multiple new diseases spread by mosquitoes or ticks were introduced into the United States, and rate of diseases caused by ticks doubled during this time frame. Health officials believe that the incidence of reported diseases is actually much less than the true prevalence of insect-borne illness today; in other words, the problem may be much bigger than we know. Tick-borne illnesses included Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis, while mosquitoes carried West Nile, dengue, and Zika.

And, of course, fleas carried plague.

How dangerous are insect bite illnesses today?

CBS News reports that CDC Director Robert R. Redfield has said there is a growing threat to the American public from insect-borne illnesses, and that greater public health and preventative measures must be taken to stop the potentially devastating impact of these diseases.

Similar to the mode in which scientists theorize the transmittal of plague reached epic proportions in the 1300s, epidemiologists believe that increased air travel may be a factor in the spread of insect-borne illnesses. As such, the CDC has launched a public health campaign to protect against dangerous illnesses from insect bites.

How do we stop the problem of illnesses from dangerous insect bites?

According to the CDC, public health agencies can create programs to test for and keep track of germs, and as well to monitor the movements of the mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas that spread them. Aside from educating the public about how to prevent insect bites and control diseases spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas in their communities, there can be an improved education of disease control staff in certain competencies for prevention of insect-borne illness. Through education and preventative medicine, we might work together to avoid the devastating impact of another plague from dangerous insect bites. The CDC is on the case.