Summer is coming. And if you think a warm-weather surge of mosquitoes and ticks is not as frightening as the fictional winter’s White Walkers from “Game of Thrones,” you haven’t read this week’s report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the rapidly escalating danger of infectious diseases spread by insects.
The CDC’s key findings: The number of Americans infected with such diseases, including Zika, West Nile and Lyme, has more than tripled in a decade, jumping from about 30,000 cases a year in 2006 to almost 100,000 in 2016. This total includes nine types of infections never before seen in the United States, including Zika and chikungunya. Looking ahead, 80 percent of state and local health departments are not ready for the insect-borne threat we are facing in just a few weeks.
Why the surge? Global travel is a major cause; as commerce, culture and tourism spread rapidly, so do diseases. Scientists also identify more infections, thanks to new research tools. But there’s another factor slipped into the CDC report: Certain mosquitoes and ticks are “moving into new areas.” This anodyne language refers to the fact that, as temperatures and moisture rise across the United States, disease-bearing insects expand their reach. Thus, we face another risk posed by the threat that Trump administration officials dare not speak aloud: climate change. [Continue reading…]