Climate for Disease

Some of the diseases that afflict humans living in or visiting tropical or subtropical areas are confined to those regions because of climate. As the climate warms, species that were excluded from much of the temperate zone by cold temperatures will be able to colonize. One pest of concern for Northwestern and Central Europe is the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus. Of greatest concern is the ability of Ae. albopictus to transmit Dengue, a particularly nasty disease. The Asian Tiger Mosquito has recently become an important pest in Northern Italy and computer simulation of climate suggest that it will spread north as the climate continues to warm.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito will lay its eggs in small pools of water and will commonly lay eggs in pools of water inside tires. The Asian Tiger Mosquito was accidentally imported into the US in retread tires from Asia. The mosquitoes laid eggs in side the tires. The tires were packed into shipping containers bound for the US. Meanwhile, the eggs hatched, the larvae pupated and turned into adults. When the containers were opened in the US, the mosquitoes flew out and established new populations.

Currently the Asian Tiger Mosquito is established in much of the Southeastern US and has been found as far north as the Chicago area. Asian Tiger Mosquitoes were recently found (2011) in the Netherlands and believed to be imported inside tires shipped from the Southern United States. We are fortunate, that Dengue is at low levels in the US population and we have not suffered outbreaks. The potential for outbreaks is clear and the situation monitored carefully by the CDC and mosquito control districts.

As our climate warms, many changes are anticipated including diseases moving into new areas. These are important challenges that entomologists and medical professionals may encounter in the near future. There is a real need to study potential risks and be prepared for these diseases if they do expand their range.

Aedes albopictus, the Asian Tiger Mosquito
Photo: James Gathany

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Environment, Health, Invasive Species. Bookmark the permalink.

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