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A blood-engorged female Aedes albopictus mosquito feeds on a human host. CDC Global / CC BY 2.0

The first three cases of Zika that started in southern France have been confirmed and experts are sounding the alarm that the climate crisis may cause more cases to spread across the continent, as CNN reported.

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The Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu speaks on Jan. 26 during a press briefing on studying the 2019-nCoV coronavirus and developing a vaccine to prevent it. Roman Balandin / TASS / Getty Images

Editor's note: The coronavirus that started in Wuhan has sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 100 in China as of Jan. 27, 2020. Thailand and Hong Kong each have reported eight confirmed cases, and five people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the illness. People are hoping for a vaccine to slow the spread of the disease.

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A statue of José Martí appears to point toward the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba on Nov. 10, 2018. Robot Brainz / Flickr

A mysterious sudden onset of extreme symptoms that overtook American and Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba may be linked to an overexposure to pesticides, according to new research.

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Kerkez / iStock / Getty Images

By Nicole Ferox

It's that time of year: Mosquitoes and ticks are out in full force, and so are all the latest bug repellent products claiming to keep them at bay. So what bug repellent ingredients do Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists recommend for kids? Our top picks are DEET, Picaridin and IR3535. These ingredients have low safety concerns and offer a high level of protection from a variety of biting insects and ticks.

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Biologist releases GMO mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil on Feb. 11, 2016. Victor Moriyama / Getty Images

By Natalie Kofler, Françoise Baylis, Graham Dellaire, Landon J Getz

Every year, around one million people die of mosquito-borne diseases according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is why mosquitoes are considered one of the deadliest living creatures on the planet — not because they are lethal themselves, but because many of the viruses and parasites they transmit are.

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A Texas health inspector sprays a neighborhood for mosquitoes. John Moore / Getty Images

Pesticides sprayed in the southern U.S. to stop the spread of the Zika virus could turn the nation's honeybees into collateral damage.

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In this handout image provided by UNICEF, a young boy from the Taunono community, looks on after the community was completely destroyed by Cyclone Pam, on March 17, 2015 in Port Vila, Vanuatu. UNICEF / Getty Images

A bleak new report highlights how the climate crisis is responsible for deaths and will cause more in the coming decades, along with malnutrition, stunted growth and lower IQs in children directly impacted by the crisis, as the Guardian reported.

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An Ae. aegypti mosquito, one of the primary vectors for the transmission of dengue fever around the world. James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise until 2080, dengue fever could spread through much of the southeastern U.S. by 2050.

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Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

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By Marlene Cimons

Mosquitoes are unrelenting killers. In fact, they are among the most lethal animals in the world. When they carry dangerous viruses or other organisms, a bite can be unforgiving. They cause millions of deaths every year from such infectious diseases as malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and at least a dozen more.

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There's a short window between when a tick bites and when it passes on bacteria or virus. MSU Ag Communications, Courtesy Dr. Tina Nations, CC BY-ND

By Jerome Goddard

When it comes to problems caused by ticks, Lyme disease hogs a lot of the limelight. But various tick species carry and transmit a collection of other pathogens, some of which cause serious, even fatal, conditions.

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U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, and U.S. Senator Ed Markey (R), Democrat of Massachusetts, speak during a press conference to announce Green New Deal legislation to promote clean energy programs outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Feb. 7. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

By Bill McKibben

Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, the man who led the drive to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, said the other day that the Green New Deal was a "back-to-the-dark-ages manifesto." That's language worth thinking about, coming from perhaps the Right's most influential spokesman on climate change.

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Fairfax County / CC BY-ND 2.0

A number of factors should come into play when you're choosing a bug repellent: what part of the country you live in, where you plan to travel, whether you're pregnant and whether you are planning to use the product on children. EWG's 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents can help you find the right product for yourself and your family.

No repellent works every place against every pest, so it is worth researching the diseases insects and ticks carry where you plan to spend time outside. The repellent you might choose for a backpacking trip in Colorado could be different from the one that might suffice for a picnic on an East Coast beach.

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Hurricane Florence caused flooded roads in Mullins, SC on Sept. 20. U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago

By Rhea Suh

A widening madness threatens the world, only one thing can avert catastrophe, and we're running out of time.

That's no Hollywood action film trailer. It's the sobering and all-too-real warning sounded by the world's top climate scientists in an authoritative report released this week. We can still prevent runaway climate disaster, they conclude, but only by taking "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented" action now to shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. We can do this, the report says, but we have about a decade—tops—to get it right.

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Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) feed exclusively on blood. tobyjug5 / Flickr

By Clara Chaisson

In the summer of 2013, I was changing into pajamas when an irritated blotch of skin caught my eye. My rib cage looked like a miniature advertisement for Target: There was a near-perfect circle of red, a smaller, concentric ring of clear skin, and then a red dot right in the middle. Bull's-eye.

In medical jargon this distinctive rash is called erythema migrans, and it's the calling card of Lyme disease. Fittingly enough, I was spending this particular peak tick season in Old Lyme, Connecticut—where it was first discovered in 1975. Luckily, I knew to be on the lookout for this exact symptom, and a course of antibiotics knocked it out of my system. I experienced no further problems.

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By Adam Hammell & Dana Williams

The pungent, salty air that emerged over South Bay communities last February was not a familiar whiff of wrack decomposing on our favorite beaches. In fact, it was the estimated 143 million gallons of raw sewage that raced down the rugged canyons of Tijuana, funneling directly through the mouth of the Tijuana River into the Pacific Ocean. Beachgoers, visitors, and residents of San Diego County have suffered the devastating effects of these spills for decades—yet little has been done to remedy the origins.

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A mysterious Zika case in Utah has been solved and it shows we still don't know everything about the virus.

Back in July, a 38-year-old man stumped experts when he was diagnosed with the Zika virus, even though he hadn't traveled to any Zika-infected areas or had sexual contact with someone who did. He also lived in Salt Lake City, an area not considered a hospitable environment for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that transmits the virus.

So far, the only ways Zika is known to be transmitted is through a bite from an infected mosquito, sexual contact with an infected person, contact with infected blood or a pregnant mother to her baby.

After tracking how this man could have gotten the virus, they discovered that he had visited a 78-year-old friend in a Utah hospital, just seven to 10 days before his symptoms began.

Eight days before the elderly man was admitted to the hospital, he had returned from a 3-week trip to the southwest coast of Mexico where it was learned he contracted Zika from mosquitoes, according to a new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

During the 38-year-old's visit, the paper says he helped the nurse re-position his friend and had wiped the man's eyes. That's it.

The paper concludes:

"Given the very high level of viremia in Patient 1, infectious levels of virus may have been present in sweat or tears, both of which Patient 2 contacted without gloves. Transmission of the infection through a mosquito bite appears to be unlikely, since aedes species that are known to transmit ZIKV have not been detected in the Salt Lake City area. In addition, the second case occurred 7 to 10 days after contact with the index patient in the hospital, which implicates direct contact during hospitalization."

So can Zika be transmitted through someone's sweat or tears, and how easily?

In a study published on Sept. 6, traces of the virus were detected in the tears of mice, but there hasn't been any studies conducted yet on sweat.

"It should not be able to pass through unbroken skin," Sankar Swaminathan, the chief of infections disease at University of Utah Health Care, and first author on the paper, told The Atlantic. Meaning the man probably either had a cut somewhere on his skin, or he inadvertently touched his eyes, nose or mouth, and the virus entered his body.

What scientists are now looking into with this case is the severity of the elderly man's infection. Four days after he was admitted into the hospital he died and, while he was elderly, was reportedly not immunocompromised.

His blood had 200 million copies of the virus per milliliter—with a typical infection you'd expect to see hundreds of thousands, and 1 million would be considered high, Swaminathan said, which lead to progressive respiratory and renal failure, metabolic acidosis and hepatitis just before his death.

A factor being considered is that because he had contracted dengue in his past, it's possible remaining antibodies from that somehow worsened his infection. He also may have had a genetic immune deficiency that just happened to be very specific to this virus, and the fact that he had a very high viral load of the virus in his system is what likely led to it being transmitted in this way, Swaminathan said.

There have been 13 fatal cases in adults—not counting deaths from Zika-related Guillain-Barré—many of which had pre-existing conditions. While this case is definitely scary, mosquitoes and sexual transmission are still the main worries in the spread of the virus.

"For the general public, this doesn't really change very much," Swaminathan said.

Aerial spraying of the pesticide naled in a South Carolina county, done in an attempt to prevent Zika-infected mosquitoes from gaining a foothold in the state, resulted instead in the massacre of millions of honeybees.

On one farm in Summerville, South Carolina, 46 hives were wiped out instantly, killing 2.5 million bees.Flowertown Bee Farm and Supplies Facebook

While 43 Zika cases have been reported in the state, all but one were from travelers who were infected abroad. The other was a sexually transmitted case. No one in South Carolina has been locally infected by a mosquito. Nevertheless, county officials sprayed a 15-square mile area early Sunday morning. Dorchester County officials said they announced the spraying on Friday and via a Facebook post on Saturday, but many residents said they received less than 10 hours notice.


43 cases of Zika reported in South Carolina to date. Credit: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

The scenario reprises the days of DDT spraying that prompted Rachel Carson's seminal book, Silent Spring. The 1962 book by the former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service writer detailed the disastrous effects on birds from the widespread use of synthetic pesticides following World War II. The leading culprit, DDT, was shown to cause reproductive failure in bald eagles, ospreys, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons. Indiscriminate aerial spraying laid a film of the pesticide where birds would pick it up.

Naled, the pesticide used in South Carolina, is an organophosphate first registered for use as a pesticide in 1959. Organophosphates were developed in the 1940s as biological warfare agents. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently authorizes use of naled for mosquito control. It is currently being applied by aerial spraying to 16 million acres of the mainland U.S., including highly populated areas. The EPA says that the chemical does not pose risks to people, although it recommends staying indoors during aerial spraying.

However, the agency appears to underplay the risks to honeybees. Its website states:

Applications made between dusk and dawn, while bees are not typically foraging, can reduce exposure to honey bees.

Although we do not anticipate significant exposure to bees, beekeepers can reduce exposure to bee colonies even more by covering colonies and preventing bees from exiting colonies during designated treatment periods, or if possible, relocating colonies to an untreated site. Providing clean sources of food (supplemental sugar water and protein diets) and clean drinking water to honey bee colonies during application can further reduce exposure.

Contrary to the EPA's recommendation, however, the spraying in South Carolina took place from 6:30 - 8:30 a.m.

Toxipedia, the online toxicology encyclopedia, is far more circumspect on the potential dangers of naled. They call it a severe skin and eye irritant, and cite a study that showed exposure to the chemical resulted in chronic nervous system damage in dogs and rats. Toxipedia also states that naled is "highly toxic to many bird species especially Canadian geese" and affects reproduction in Mallard ducks. They also note that its use "puts many endangered species at risk." With respect to honeybees, they couldn't be more clear:

It is toxic to bees and stoneflies (#EXTOXNET, 1996).

In April, EcoWatch reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was silencing its own bee scientists. A Feb. 7, 2014 story documented the EPA's approval of two other pesticides known to be highly toxic to bees. The EPA's action came despite the concerns of beekeepers facing colony collapse.

On one farm in Summerville, South Carolina, 46 hives were wiped out instantly, killing 2.5 million bees. Compounding the problem was the weather: hot, 90 degree temperatures caused bees to leave their hives in order to cool down. That meant the bees were active during the widespread spraying.

As many residents became aware of the insecticide spraying, they tried to contact Dorchester County Mosquito Abatement by phone, as the notices had stated. No one answered. A resident who has started a petition on change.org wrote, "To our knowledge not one phone call was returned and no answers were given." The petition asks for the spraying to be stopped, for more information on the chemicals used and for a public forum to discuss their concerns. By Tuesday, Dorchester County had issued an apology, but there is no word to date on whether they will compensate beekeepers for the destruction of their hives.

The honeybee genocide in South Carolina came as a study published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences links high demand and federal subsidies for corn and soybean crops to the loss of grassland in the Great Plains that bees need to survive. The study says that expansion of these crops in the Northern Great Plains is "altering the landscape in ways that are seemingly less conducive to beekeeping." The area in the study is home to more than 40 percent of the U.S. bee colonies.

Honeybees are nature's best pollinators. Without them, important crops including almonds, blueberries, apples, asparagus and broccoli would be threatened. It is estimated that bees are responsible for some $19 billion of U.S. crop production. The agricultural impact of the South Carolina disaster is not yet known.

Zika could extend its reach from Miami to Gulf States such as Texas and Louisiana, National Institute of Health official Anthony Fauci said in an interview Monday.

This warning comes just days after the Center for Disease Control expanded on its first ever domestic travel warning by advising pregnant women not to travel to Miami Beach due to the spread of Zika. Fauci highlighted the increased risk of Zika in Louisiana because of recent flooding, as standing water provides an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos.

In many Southern cities, mosquito season is getting longer thanks to climate change, which is a threat multiplier for Zika and other vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue.

For a deeper dive:

News: Washington Post, Reuters, TIME, The Hill, NPR, Wall Street Journal

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