Mosquito Season

As Spring is in the air, and April showers bring May flowers, they also bring bloodthirsty mosquitos. While most can agree on the annoyance of these little pests, we often give little thought to other potential risks they bring with them. Mosquitoes serve as vectors for a multitude of pathogens, including viruses (e.g., Zika, dengue, chikungunya) and parasites (e.g., malaria). The geographic range of mosquitos means that these pathogens can be found in every continent except Antarctica, although typically limited to specific regions. However, rapidly changing climate conditions has expanded the geographic range of mosquitos, bringing these diseases to new areas.

Climatic changes have been noted around the world with disruption to ecosystems small and wide. The consequences of climate change extend beyond fluctuations in temperature and weather patterns. They greatly affect all ecological communities, altering the behavior and distribution of vector species and their associated pathogens. This disruption can lead to outbreaks of diseases in areas previously unaffected, placing populations at risk of infection. Further, the changes in precipitation patterns create additional breeding grounds for mosquitos worldwide. Climate change can exacerbate socio-economic factors, such as poverty and inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which can hinder effective disease prevention and control measures. Vulnerable communities, particularly those in low-lying coastal regions and developing countries, bear the brunt of these impacts, facing heightened exposure to vector-borne diseases and limited resources to combat them.

Organizations and scientific communities have come together to collaborate in efforts to mitigate the impact of vector-borne diseases associated. Working together to increase early awareness of vector population changes enhances the ability to deploy timely interventions to curb transmission. Along with monitoring mosquito populations, there are vector management provisions in place such as use of areal insecticides and larval control initiatives. Government support has been noted through increased funds in research and innovation efforts. Through research, we can better understand the changing relationship between the vector, the pathogen, and the environment, which leads to better strategies for mosquito control and disease prevention.

Many countries have had success with the scheduled release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitos out into the wild. These GM mosquitos have a gene modified that prevents female offspring from reaching maturity, resulting in population control. However, this process of releasing GM must be continued regularly to maintain effectiveness.  The use of GM mosquitos as a control method in the United States is not regularly used, despite its effectiveness.  

Community awareness and education is always at the forefront of any public health initiative. Regular use of insecticides, removal of debris on property that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitos, and wearing clothing that covers skin are all useful personal protection methods. It is also important to know the signs of illness such as headache, chills, fever, and lethargy after a recent exposure.  Symptoms can require medical attention, and one should be sure to report travel, or being outdoors with poor mosquito control. This can be travel to an area of the world with known high-risk or in your local community. Repellents containing DEET (<50%) remain the best option for personal protection when used appropriately. Educate & stay healthy.

Malinda Ruelas is a Research Nurse with SPECTRE






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