Thursday, April 30, 2015

Climate Change and the Spread of Insect-borne Disease

Insects can be vectors of disease and as temperatures rise, diseases and insects normally found in warmer climates are starting to appear in more temperate climates. Insects like mosquitoes can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and dengue fever and are now posing a risk to the United States and have killed American citizens.

And it’s not only the United States who is as risk.

Insect-borne diseases once limited to equatorial regions have spread to southern and eastern Europe. Studies predict that soon mosquitos carrying tropical diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya will reach Britain. Britain is already thought to be a suitable environment for West Nile Virus and the main carrier species of mosquito was discovered in Kent.

While climate change seems to be helping the distribution of mosquitoes, bats, which are predators of these insects, are being negatively impacted. Bats use echolocation to navigate and locate prey in the dark. Unfortunately, climate change is affecting the volume and clarity of the sound generated by temperate region bats making it harder for them to catch the pest mosquitoes.

And now we must combat these pests in place of the bats.

New developments in LED lightbulbs may lead to customized lights that can deter insects. Artificial lights can attract insects carrying deadly diseases such as mosquitoes and this is a problem in developing countries like Brazil. The United States is taking a bit of a different approach, and of course, it involves drones.

White House officials highlighted a Microsoft project to warn against the spread of insect-borne diseases by robotically stalking mosquitoes. This autonomous system would help detect pathogens in the environment before people were infected.

Along with the drones, Obama is trying to raise awareness of climate change, how it impacts our health, and how to take action to reduce health risks associated with climate change. Negotiating a deal with China to cut greenhouse gases and enacting EPA regulations is another head of the fight against climate change.

However, some Republican lawmakers in Congress don’t feel climate change is a substantial risk. And with climate change consistently polling low among American priorities with doubt the steps Obama is taking to reduce pollution is worth the cost to the economy, sufficient change may come slowly.

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