Novel mosquito viruses: Pandemics becoming airborne through insect transmission

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Novel mosquito viruses: Pandemics becoming airborne through insect transmission

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Novel mosquito viruses: Pandemics becoming airborne through insect transmission

Subheading text
Infectious diseases carried by mosquitoes that have in the past been associated with specific regions are increasingly likely to spread worldwide as globalization and climate change increase the reach of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
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      Quantumrun Foresight
    • June 16, 2022

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    Aedes vittatus and Aedes aegypti are mosquito species that can carry almost all deadly mosquito-borne diseases. Globalization and climate change have made it increasingly possible for these species to carry diseases to new regions, increasing the likelihood of new pandemics emerging worldwide. As of 2022, mosquito-borne diseases kill more than one million people every year and infect nearly 700 million people globally. 

    New mosquito virus context

    Mosquito-borne pathogens can cause deadly diseases like chikungunya, Zika, dengue, and yellow fever. While these diseases are innate in certain parts of the world, increased travel through trade and e-commerce can transport mosquito eggs in cargo ships or aircraft to new parts of the world. 

    Additionally, as average global temperatures rise, disease-carrying mosquitoes can find new breeding grounds in parts of the world that were previously inhospitable. Climate change has further led to different animals changing their migration patterns, often leading to viruses and bacteria jumping between species. As a result, incidents of diseases spreading to new areas have increased since the early 2000s. For example, in 2007, an Italian tourist contracted chikungunya from a trip to Kerala, India. After his return, he infected almost 200 people before the outbreak was contained using effective sanitization and insect-management measures.

    According to the World Health Organization, the dengue virus was only found in nine countries before 1970. However, it’s become endemic to 128 countries since then, causing over four million infections in 2019. Mosquito-borne diseases have also made a significant impact on United States soldiers that were deployed to Vietnam, with mosquito-related pathogens accounting for 20 out of the top 50 afflictions affecting soldiers. A study published in 2019 suggested that 60 percent of the world’s population will likely contract dengue fever by 2080.

    Disruptive impact

    Scientists predict that events like the 2013-14 chikungunya outbreak in the Caribbean and the 2015-16 Zika outbreak in Brazil will likely become more common in the future. Scientists believe that climate change has further increased the risks of mosquito-borne pandemics occurring in regions above the equator, including in Europe and North America.  

    As a result, many nations will likely form a targeted approach to identify and curb mosquito-borne epidemics before they begin. These approaches may dedicate more resources to scientific research to develop new treatments, sanitation measures, and to introduce regulations on traded goods to eliminate the threat of mosquito-borne diseases. If certain diseases enter populations that have previously not experienced them, such as the zika virus, mortality rates may be higher than average and place local and regional health systems under significant pressure.  

    Implications of mosquito-borne viruses appearing in new parts of the world

    The wider implications of new mosquito-borne diseases entering circulation in new regions may include: 

    • An increase in infectious diseases, causing more people to miss work, which might negatively impact national and global economic productivity. 
    • Outdoor activities of all kinds in northern regions will increasingly involve mosquito-repellent precautions.
    • Native wildlife in northern regions may also experience negative health effects from the introduction of new and invasive mosquito species and mosquito-borne diseases.
    • Increased funding into research that can identify and prevent future pandemics.
    • New sanitation measures being built into public infrastructure and park management programs by municipalities that did not previously need to invest in such measures.
    • New sanitation measures being introduced for goods transported from specific countries and regions, increasing operating costs for logistics suppliers that are passed on to their clients.

    Questions to comment on

    • Do you think a global policy on the identification and prevention of pandemics will be able to combat the rise of mosquito-borne diseases? 
    • Which countries do you believe are most vulnerable to mosquito-borne diseases arriving from other countries?

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