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CDC Official Warns Warmer Earth Means More Insect-Borne Diseases

Health + Wellness
Aedes aegypti mosquito obtaining a blood-meal. Public Health Image Library

The number of diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 through 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 640,000 cases were reported during those 13 years. There were more than 96,000 cases in 2016, a massive jump from the 27,000 cases in 2004.


The bite of an infected mosquito, tick or flea can transmit illnesses including the Zika virus, West Nile, Lyme disease and chikungunya. The report also mentions that nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the U.S. in the years studied.

This increase in insect-borne illnesses can be blamed on many factors, including overseas travel and commerce, the CDC said.

Lyle Petersen, the report's lead author and the agency's director of vector-borne diseases, also said warmer weather was a reason, as Wired reported.

However, the official stopped short of using the highly politicized term "climate change," even though many scientists have established this link.

"I can't comment on why there's increasing temperatures, that's the job of meteorologists," Petersen told reporters, as quoted by Wired. "What I can tell you is increasing temperatures have a number of effects on all these vector-borne diseases."

The Natural Resources Defense Council explained that warming winters and milder seasons are giving ticks, which carry Lyme disease, more opportunity to find hosts to dine on and survive in greater numbers. Additionally, rising temperatures have enabled ticks to spread to areas of the country that have historically been too cold to sustain them.

Similarly, the range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry dengue and Zika, is largely limited to the hot, wet conditions of the tropics and subtropics. But a recent study suggested that as our world becomes warmer and wetter, the range of these bloodsuckers could spread, putting millions of people at risk to exposure.

Incidentally, as Salon observed, the CDC has an entire webpage dedicated to how the impacts of climate change can impact human health. It even has a subsection on climate affecting the geographic and seasonal distribution of vector populations.

According to the new CDC report, wearing "long-sleeved shirts and long pants" and using insect repellant are among the list of measures the CDC offers to prevent insect-borne diseases.

The report said the nation needs better preparation to face this growing public health threat.

"Our nation's first lines of defense are state and local health departments and vector control organizations, and we must continue to enhance our investment in their ability to fight against these diseases," CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement.

Urging the government to fight against climate change might be a good place to start.

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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