Are Climate Change and Vector-Borne Diseases Related?
Are climate change and vector-borne diseases related? The short answer is yes, they are. Let's explore the relationship between climate change and vector-borne illnesses, along with how a possible increase in these diseases might affect you and your family as you go about your daily lives.
What are Vectors and Vector-Borne Diseases?
Vectors are organisms that spread diseases. Thus, vector-borne diseases come from vectors. Insects and arthropods (invertebrate species with an exoskeleton, including insects like mosquitoes) are the most common infectious illness vectors.
In North America and elsewhere, the female Aedes aegypti mosquito is a dangerous vector, responsible for the transmission of sicknesses like dengue, chikungunya and Zika to human beings.
Vectors typically need warm — and often humid and moist — environmental conditions to thrive, stay active and reproduce in large numbers.
Defining Climate Change
The global climate has always been changing, from hotter periods, ice ages and everything in between. With the onset of human industrial activity, these natural changes have had a massive input from our species.
According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and NASA, "the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia."
More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led to a rapid increase in overall global temperatures during the last 40 to 50 years. While it might be colder where you live due to changes in weather patterns or ocean currents, perhaps, the planet’s temperature as a whole is rising.
Climate Change and Vector-Borne Diseases
Vectors (like Aedes aegypti), and vector-borne diseases by extension, tend to flourish in warmer climates. As the range of these pests increases due to warming trends, they can migrate to higher latitudes, colonizing areas that were too cold for them in the past — or at least cold enough to limit their annual activity. More active, widely spread vectors mean more opportunity for them to spread dangerous pathogens.
In the case of the U.S., this translates to vectors like mosquitoes moving northward from southern regions like Texas and Florida. As states with cooler average yearly temperatures heat up, even if only by a small amount, this provides an opening for vectors to move in or extend their breeding season and increase their presence.
The systems supporting and affecting the global climate, in general, are incredibly complex — and so are the systems affecting climate change. That being said, climate change and vector-borne diseases are related. Arthropods are set to take advantage of warming temperatures, which is why health officials and companies like MosquitoNix® are paying close attention to changes in our climate and the spread of vectors like the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes to offer the most effective services possible in the face of these changes.
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