CDC Official Warns Warmer Earth Means More Insect-Borne Diseases
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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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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Listen:<iframe style="border: none" src="//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/17278520/height/45/theme/standard/thumbnail/yes/direction/backward/" height="45" width="100%" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen></iframe><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/01/college-course-teaches-students-how-to-be-climate-leaders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Yale Climate Connections</a>.</em></p>
By Daniel Raichel
Industry would have us believe that pesticides help sustain food production — a necessary chemical trade-off for keeping harmful bugs at bay and ensuring we have enough to eat. But the data often tell a different story—particularly in the case of neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as neonics.
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