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Rising Temperatures could Increase Spread of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

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A rise in temperatures, and the increased survival of some mosquito species in particular regions, could lead to the spread of fatal viruses in the Global North, Duncan R Smith writes.

[Dr. Duncan R Smith | Policy Forum]

The deadliest animal in the world – at least to humans – is the humble mosquito, which is believed to kill more than a million people a year. There are more than 3,500 different mosquito species that thrive in a wide range of habitats, but only a small proportion of them are involved in human disease transmission.

Diseases are passed to humans when an infected female mosquito takes a blood meal to obtain nutrients required for egg development. The mosquitoes of most pressing concern in terms of human health are Anopheles mosquitoes – transmitters of the malaria pathogen – and Aedes mosquitoes – spreaders of a number of viruses including the dengue, yellow fever, and Zika viruses.

Like everything else living on this earth, mosquitoes have a preferred temperature range. Below approximately 10 degrees Celsius, mosquitoes tend to shut down; at around 26 to 29 degrees Celsius, they are most active.

Female mosquitoes target food sources that have an ambient temperature of up to approximately 40 degrees Celsius, while all avoid targets above this temperature. However, the exact optimum conditions for all aspects of mosquito biology depend on the specific species of mosquito.

Given that global warming will........

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