Experts Sound Alarm As Mosquito-Borne Viruses Hit US

Experts at a recent event in Washington, DC, warned that insect-borne viruses pose a growing threat to health in the United States. Scientists attending the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine workshop in the nation’s capital advised that viruses carried by mosquitos and ticks are spreading in non-tropical environments and prompting outbreaks of malaria, Zika, and dengue fever in the US, particularly in southern states.

America saw its first malaria cases in two decades this year as outbreaks occurred in Florida and Texas. Experts say globalization and climate change are behind the threat. Meanwhile, reports suggest that the US has lost its ability to track insects, as only 16 currently have the capacity to do so.

In the past, all 50 states had a resident entomologist – an insect expert – but this has now dropped, and according to Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this means “nation’s ability to monitor viruses like West Nile is sparse. We’re not getting great information because we haven’t maintained our infrastructure.”

West Nile Virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in America, according to the CDC, and in 2021, 2,099 people with West Nile Virus were hospitalized and 227 died. The states with the highest number of incidents were Texas, Colorado, and California.

The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has said that despite the mosquito virus reappearance – particularly malaria – during the summer, panic is unnecessary. It states that the disease was “endemic” until the 1950s but was then considered eliminated. It estimates that locally transmitted cases in Florida probably came about when a local mosquito bit a person who had contracted malaria overseas and thereby became a carrier and transmitted the virus onward.

Malaria, Zika, and dengue fever exhibit similar symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, nausea, and joint pain. Mosquito nets and skin covering are the primary recommendations to protect from the diseases.