Surge In Dangerous Viruses Spread by Mosquitos, Climate Change May Be Why

Photo: CNN

There have been eight locally-transmitted cases of dengue fever in Florida confirmed this year according to the Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, part of a global surge in the virus. Similarly, nine Americans have died this year of a virus called Eastern equine encephalitis, or “Triple E,” which is also spread by mosquitos and causes swelling of the brain.  Experts believe the surges in these mosquito-borne viruses are caused by climate change.

Why This Matters:  Scientists believe that these viruses are increasing because of hotter, wetter weather brought on by climate change, which has created ideal conditions for female mosquitoes to lay their eggs.  Combine that with urbanization that results in vulnerable populations living in close contact with disease-carrying insects and you have a bona fide public health crisis.  Half the world is now at risk of getting dengue fever according to the World Health Organization (WHO), its infection rate has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years.

Worldwide Dengue Fever Surge

CNN reported in September that, “explosive outbreaks of dengue fever have rapidly spread in countries across Asia, killing more than 1,000 people, infecting hundreds of thousands and straining hospitals packed with sick families.”  Worldwide there have been 2.7 million cases reported through August, per The Washington Post.

Mosquitos as Vectors

“Most mosquitoes are not carrying ‘Triple E.’ And it remains a very rare disease,” said Catherine Brown of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, but it is quite devastating.  EEE is more widespread this year because the extended warm weather speeds up the reproduction process of the mosquitos and also because it is more prevalent in songbirds (that pass it on to the mosquitos) that have come north from Florida.    Dengue virus is spread through bites from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which also spread chikungunya and Zika virus.

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

The Miami Herald recommends:

  • “Draining water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers;”
  • “Wearing shoes, socks, long pants, and long sleeves;”
  • “Applying mosquito repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535 to bare skin and clothing;” and
  • “Covering doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.”

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