How Climate Change May Assist Mosquitos in Spreading Disease

How Climate Change May Assist Mosquitos in Spreading Disease on platinummosquito.com

Global warming may not be good for us, but it could be great for mosquitos

Although global warming (more accurately, anthropogenic climate change) is still a heated debate (no pun intended) – at least in terms of exactly how fast it will have an impact – one thing is clear: Warmer temperatures are great for mosquitos.

Warmer weather = larger mosquito habitats

These insects thrive in warm climates. Recently, researchers examined the Asian tiger mosquito – the primary spreader of chikungunya – and how it is expanding its territory in the Northeast U.S. Because much of this area is expected to get warmer and wetter over the next century, this will give this mosquito more of a habitat.

Two things that control the spread of mosquitos are cold winter temperatures and a reduction of precipitation. Results of the study show that because we’ll be seeing warmer weather and more rainfall, “Asian tiger mosquitoes are poised to dramatically increase their range in the coming decades.”

Other people have also come to this startling conclusion. Maria Diuk-Wasser of Yale’s School of Public Health says that global warming will create more mosquito-friendly habitats, thus likely increasing the infection rates of dengue, malaria, and Wes Nile virus.

“The direct effects of temperature increase are an increase in immature mosquito development, virus development and mosquito biting rates, which increase contact rates (biting) with humans,” she said.

2012 Dallas gives us a glimpse of what’s to come

Instead of speculation or projections, there’s a clear example of how warmer temperatures directly led to more people getting mosquito-borne diseases. In 2012, Dallas began seeing a sharp rise in West Nile virus cases. The illness wasn’t new to Dallas; it had arrived 10 years earlier but hadn’t done a lot of damage in the subsequent decade. But by the end of 2012, over 1,100 hundred people had contracted it, leading to more than 200 hospitalizations and 19 deaths. The reason for such a big outbreak? Unusually warm weather.

A New York Times article summarized the impact: “The epidemic year was an outlier on every measure, with the warmest winter, the warmest spring and the heaviest early rainfall in 10 years. It had been a freak weather event, and mosquitoes benefited from it. The insects survived the winter, so there were more of them to start with. They woke sooner, spilled out earlier from their winter hiding places and bit people in greater numbers than in any other year, transmitting so much virus that it made many people gravely ill.”

One more troubling discovery

Another reason why even a slight increase in temperature is so alarming has to do with a recent discovery by researchers at Stanford University. They found that the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika, happens at lower temperatures than was once thought. The peak transmission temperature was considered to be 90 degrees. However, this new study proves that it is highest at about 84 degrees.

“This means that future transmission is much more likely to occur in subtropical and even temperate areas, such as the southern United States and northern Mexico,” said Jeremy Cohen, one of the researchers.

What you can do to protect yourself

There are not a lot of individual people can do about slowing down climate change, but there are ways to keep mosquitos away. A misting system is one of the most effective tools you can use to guard your home and property against mosquitos. For a free onsite consultation from a mosquito pro, contact Platinum Mosquito Protection.

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