• Tech Tech

Scientists issue critical warning after serious disease threatens to spread across borders and into US: 'The storm's comin', folks'

The skyrocketing numbers led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning in June.

The skyrocketing numbers led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning in June.

Photo Credit: iStock

In the U.S., mosquito bites have always been a part of summertime. Now, with rising global temperatures expanding their habitat, deadly-disease-carrying mosquitoes are beginning to encroach on southern states.

What's happening?

The Washington Post reported that dengue fever, a common mosquito-borne virus, is surging worldwide. "[There are] a record 10 million people who have fallen ill with dengue so far this year," the Post reported. Put another way, that's approximately 1 in every 800 people on the planet.

These mind-boggling case numbers have been recorded everywhere from Puerto Rico to Nepal, and even in previously untouched countries, per the Post. 

The skyrocketing numbers led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning in June, alerting travelers and healthcare providers to be aware of increased dengue risk.

"The storm's comin', folks," said Grayson Brown of the nonprofit Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit, per the Post. "It's here in Puerto Rico, but [the States are] going to feel it pretty soon."

Why is this concerning?

As global temperatures continue to rise, conditions grow more favorable for the mosquito that carries dengue, Aedes aegypti. Heat is also beneficial to the virus itself, which replicates faster in hotter temperatures.

One study, published in Ecology Letters, found that it can "grow faster, bite more people, and lay more eggs" in hotter temperatures, the Post wrote. "It lays its eggs wherever there is standing water: in vent pipes of septic tanks, water meters, discarded tires, and broken flower pots."

A study published in the journal Nature Microbiology found that, if temperatures continue rising at similar rates, an additional 2 billion people around the globe will be exposed to dengue in the coming decades.

Describing the mosquito to the Post, medical geographer Sadie Ryan said: "They're tenacious. They're pernicious. Really, they're just good at being everywhere."

What's being done?

While a vaccine was developed in France, low public awareness contributed to underutilization, which then led to its discontinuation. Other countries are working on vaccines, but the particular complications of dengue — namely, that it comes in four interacting varieties — make vaccine development difficult, according to the Post.

Much of the responsibility for slowing planetary warming, and therefore, reducing the spread of dengue, falls on global heating's biggest contributors: corporations and governments. 

However, for individuals who want to restrict the circulation of them and other disease-carrying mosquitoes, you can stay ahead by using precautions if you're traveling in an Aedes aegypti zone. You can keep all water tightly sealed, apply larvicide and use other methods if instructed by local authorities, and inform others about the threat.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider