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Concerns Grow Over Delayed Diagnosis of Tick- and Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report indicating that the total number of reported vector-borne disease cases involving ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas tripled between 2004 and 2016. Tick-borne diseases more than doubled with Lyme disease accounting for 82% of all tick-borne cases, but spotted fever rickettsioses, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis cases also increased. Mosquito-borne diseases were marked by virus outbreaks involving dengue, chikungunya, Zika, West Nile and other types of encephalitis viruses. A total of 642,602 cases of 16 diseases were reported to CDC during 2004–2016.

Notably, these findings are considered to be substantially underreported. That is because the data relies on a person seeking care, a doctor diagnosing the correct problem and requesting appropriate tests, and providers or laboratories reporting to public health authorities. While many patients with minor symptoms do not seek treatment, even when they do go to a doctor, a proper diagnosis can be challenging for several reasons.

First, symptoms may be vague or common to many types of ailments. Depending on the specific disease, signs of illness may include mild flu-like symptoms, fever, headache, fatigue, restlessness, drowsiness, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, joint or muscle pain, convulsions, and coma. Very severe cases can result in intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, cranial nerve dysfunction, and death.

Another concern is that even when testing is done, it may be unreliable with false negatives and positives. Lyme disease is a good example of this problem. In some cases, patients are mistakenly treated for a tick or mosquito related illness when they have another health problem, or they undergo protracted treatment for Lyme disease when they do not actually have the condition.

Doctors also may not ask for, or patients may fail to disclose, information that would be useful in diagnosis, such as travel to areas with an outbreak. In addition, there have been new tick and mosquito related diseases discovered on a regular basis with 9 new insect-related illnesses in the last 13 years according to the CDC study. Due to climate change broadening the geographic range of previously constrained insect vectors, the CDC expects this to be a continuing threat posing another challenge for doctors.

While in some cases treatment may be as simple as providing a course of antibiotics, delayed or missed diagnosis will nearly always have deleterious and significant long-term health effects. As a result, delayed recognition of tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses is increasingly seen as a claim in medical malpractice actions.

Infectious Disease specialists are frontline expert witnesses in litigation involving delayed or improper treatment of tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses. These experts can evaluate claims and testify regarding standards of care and causation for misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, as well as complications from the delayed treatment itself. Securing the most experienced expert with vector-borne diseases is crucial. Contact ELITE Medical Experts to find a nationally recognized expert specifically chosen for your case.