US Researchers Battle Mosquitoes to Advance Control Methods

16:29 10.09.2023

In Salt Lake City, Utah, the Mosquito Abatement District is working tirelessly to control the population of mosquitoes, particularly the sabethes cyaneus species. Ella Branham, a technician at the district, has volunteered to let these South American mosquitoes feed on her blood in order to produce eggs and maintain the colony for educational and research purposes.

The importance of mosquito control cannot be underestimated, as these insects are carriers of deadly viruses such as dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika. While Asia and Africa are particularly vulnerable to mosquito-borne diseases, the United States also closely monitors the threat. In fact, local agencies reported over 1,100 cases of West Nile virus in 2022 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

West Nile virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, often goes unnoticed in most humans. However, for some individuals, it can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, fever, and in rare cases, seizures or meningitis. Over the past 25 years, the United States has experienced nearly 3,000 deaths and over 25,000 hospitalizations linked to West Nile virus, with the majority occurring in August. This year, several West Nile deaths have been reported in states like Texas and Colorado. Additionally, mosquitoes are believed to be the source of "locally acquired" malaria infections in Maryland, Florida, and Texas.

Ary Faraji, an entomologist and the executive director of the Salt Lake City mosquito abatement district, emphasizes the impact of climate change on mosquito populations. As the climate warms, the mosquito season starts earlier and lasts longer. The district used to close down in mid-September, but now they continue trapping and monitoring mosquitoes until Thanksgiving. This year, due to an abnormally snowy winter and a rainy spring, there were five times as many mosquitoes in May compared to an average year.

Faraji's team, consisting of scientists, college, and doctoral students, uses various methods, including drones, boats, and ATVs, to trap, sort, and test mosquitoes for viruses. They analyze trends such as weather patterns and population growth to understand how disease transmission may be affected. Faraji highlights the importance of considering the proximity of human populations to mosquito breeding grounds, as a higher concentration increases the risk of pathogen transmission. This is particularly challenging in the wetland areas surrounding Utah's Great Salt Lake.

Although mosquitoes pose a significant health threat, they also play a vital role in ecosystems worldwide. Different mosquito species serve as pollinators and food sources for fish, birds, and frogs. The goal of the mosquito abatement district is to maintain a balance by suppressing their population without negatively impacting communities or the overall ecosystem.

The work done by the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District and similar organizations across the United States is crucial in combating mosquito-borne diseases and protecting public health. Through research, education, and careful monitoring, these agencies strive to minimize the threat posed by mosquitoes while preserving the delicate ecological balance that these insects are a part of.

/ Sunday, September 10, 2023, 4:29 PM /

themes:  Thanksgiving  Florida  Texas  Maryland  Colorado  Utah

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