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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Taking a Risk on Travel (AKA: Catching flights, not disease)

I’m taking a vacation in a couple of weeks (more to come on that!) and I happen to be going out of the country. As with many people, I’m concerned about catching something, particularly since I’m going to an area that has previously had high rates of disease incidences. I’m vaccinated and taking all the precautions I can, but there is always a risk. Mosquitoes are everywhere!

Mosquitoes are actually terrifying when you really think about it. They are responsible for more deaths than any other animal, including humans. It’s a bit of a bad rap because it’s not the mosquito, it’s the disease they can carry. In many cases diseases. The CDC lists over a dozen diseases and a few parasites that are transmitted by mosquitoes.

This has had a massive impact on history. Malaria can be traced back to before 450 AD and there are some estimates that malaria may have killed half the people that ever lived. A yellow fever outbreak in the US in 1793 caused around 5,000 deaths and the movement of the capital from Philadelphia to Washington DC. Later outbreaks in Georgia and Louisiana cause around 20,000 deaths around 1878.

It doesn’t stop with “history”. Zika reemerged in 2016 and while it did not cause many deaths, there was the threat of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. A 2019 outbreak of eastern equine encephalitis in the US cause 12 deaths. More than 40% of the world’s population today is estimated to be at risk of dengue and causes around 25,000 deaths annually.

It's certainly not hopeless, we have tools to fight this flying menace. Unlike ancient times, we know these mosquito borne diseases aren’t spread by “bad air” and we know to look for standing water and use insect repellent when outdoors. Many research projects are focused on managing mosquitoes and new techniques are being developed. There are genetically modified mosquitoes being used to combat the yellow fever mosquito and infesting eggs with Wolbachia bacteria has shown reductions in mosquito populations. More research will lead us to better and more targeted treatments.

Mosquitoes are not just annoying pests, they are serial killers. Mosquito control is necessary to protect human health. It has to be done from an integrated aspect of reducing sources, addressing habitats, and limiting populations. Everyone has a responsibility from individuals and their own back yards, to widespread community control. If you want to learn more about how to improve your mosquito management plans, contact us here.

Lagniappe – for more on mosquitoes, check out this great book.

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