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Health officials warn US is unprepared for growing disease threat: ‘If we don’t do anything … it’s going to get worse’

“We don’t pay enough attention in the United States to what is going on in other countries.”

"We don’t pay enough attention in the United States to what is going on in other countries."

Photo Credit: iStock

Rising global temperatures have resulted in various consequences — among them, more mosquitoes in North America. Those mosquitoes are bringing various diseases along with them, and experts are saying that the United States is unprepared for the threat.

What is happening?

Over the past five decades, mosquito populations have increased tenfold in North America, according to one paper published in Nature Communications.

Those mosquitoes can carry tropical diseases such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya, as well as malaria — all of which have been on the rise in the United States.

Why is this concerning?

At a recent workshop held at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in Washington, D.C., global health experts warned of the dangers of ignoring this growing threat.

“If we don’t do anything, which is basically what we’re doing right now, it’s going to get worse,” medical entomologist Tom Scott said. “The damage from inaction is enormous. It’s unacceptable. It’s unethical.”

“We don’t pay enough attention in the United States to what is going on in other countries. We just kind of watch it spread and we don’t prepare ourselves for that virus potentially coming to the U.S.,” Laura Kramer, director of the Arbovirus Laboratory at State University of New York at Albany, said. “That happened with Zika, chikungunya and West Nile.”

What can be done about it?

The experts recommended that in order to cut down on the number of mosquitoes (and the diseases they carry), the United States should follow the example of Singapore, which has fastidiously removed mosquito breeding grounds and teaches schoolchildren about vector control.

“By practising good and regular housekeeping — filling up ground depressions, disposing discarded containers properly, and clearing choked drains and roof gutters regularly — mosquito breeding can be minimised,” a Singapore government agency recommends.

Singapore also has a robust surveillance system that tracks dengue cases and warns citizens when there is an uptick — something that might be more difficult to implement in the United States due to widespread mistrust of medical experts.

If you want to keep mosquitoes away from your home and out of your garden, in addition to dumping out any and all standing water, there are several planet-friendly steps that you can take that do not involve the use of pesticides.

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