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Why the Menace of Mosquitoes Will Only Get Worse

Aedes aegypti. Credit Andrew Bettles for The New York Times

Climate change is altering the environment in ways that increase the potential for viruses like Zika. - by Maryn McKenna - April 20, 2017

 . . . Climate change is turning abnormal weather into a common occurrence: Last year was the warmest year on record, the third in a row, and there were more heat waves, freezes and storms in the United States that caused $1 billion or more in damage just in 2016 than in the years 1980 to 1984 combined. Anything that improves conditions for mosquitoes tips the scales for the diseases they carry as well: the West Nile virus that flattened Dallas, the dengue that returned to Florida in 2009 after 63 years and the newest arrival, Zika, which gained a toehold in the United States last year and is expected to surge this summer . . .

 . . . When the health effects of climate change are discussed, the planet-scale impacts get the attention: rising temperatures, which can cause death from overheating; earlier springs, which pump more pollen toward the allergic; runoff from violent storms, which washes fecal bacteria out of sewer pipes; changing airflows that trap ozone near the ground, stressing the systems of people living with heart disease.

The unpredictable weather patterns stimulated by climate change affect infectious diseases, as well as chronic ones. Warmer weather encourages food-borne organisms like salmonella to multiply more rapidly, and warmer seas foster the growth of bacteria like Vibrio that make oysters unsafe to eat. Spikes in heat and humidity have less visible effects, too, changing the numbers and distribution of the insect intermediaries that carry diseases to people . . .



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