Florida May Be Unprepared For A Surge In Mosquito And Tick-Borne Viruses

Jan 26, 2024 at 01:00 pm by Matt

Mosquiot and ticl-norne viruses. Florida confronts an increasing menace from viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks, with experts contending that the state is ill-equipped to manage this growing peril. In the 1970s and '80s, the arrival of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, commonly referred to as Asian tiger mosquitoes, through the trade in used tires, signaled their establishment in the U.S. These mosquitoes, carriers of viruses such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya, rapidly adjusted to urban settings in the southern, eastern, and western regions of the country.

Shifting Climates And Mosquito And Tick-Borne Viruses

Globalization and shifting climate patterns have facilitated the worldwide dispersion of insects and the ailments they carry. At a recent two-day workshop at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C., global public health experts expressed apprehension regarding the lack of readiness in countries like the U.S. to confront this imminent threat. Medical entomologist Tom Scott stressed the imperative need for action, cautioning that the repercussions of inaction are extensive, unacceptable, and unethical.

The workshop centered on arboviral threats, encompassing viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks that pose risks to human health. Maladies once deemed distant from the U.S. are now surfacing locally, with instances of malaria and tropical skin diseases reported this year. The 2016-2017 Zika outbreak in Florida and Texas, coupled with an ongoing decade-long localized spread of dengue, exemplify the growing prevalence of these tropical diseases.

Heightened Vigilance

Experts at the workshop emphasized the necessity for heightened vigilance in light of climate change-induced expansion of tropical insects and diseases. Nonetheless, the U.S. has witnessed a decline in its capacity to monitor insects over time, marked by a notable reduction in entomologists across the nation.

To address this challenge, public health researchers suggest adopting strategies from countries like Singapore, where effective measures for mosquito control have been put in place. Singapore's triumph lies in environmental clean-up, early education on vector control, and a robust surveillance program monitoring virus cases by neighborhood. While Singapore's approach may not be directly transferrable to the U.S., alternative tools such as vaccines and designing urban spaces resistant to mosquitoes could offer viable solutions.

The mounting threat of viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks demands immediate attention and proactive measures to safeguard public health. The U.S. must draw lessons from successful global models and invest in infrastructure to combat the expanding reach of these diseases.

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