US Faces New Increasing Threat, But It Is Not What You Think

Written by Jeppe W

Dec.18 - 2023 12:01 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

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Global public health experts have raised alarms about the United States' preparedness in the face of growing threats posed by tropical and insect-borne viruses.

During a two-day workshop at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in Washington, D.C., experts emphasized the spread of arboviral threats, including mosquito- and tick-borne viruses, in non-tropical environments within the U.S.

Tropical diseases such as malaria, Zika, and dengue fever have already seen transmissions and outbreaks in the U.S. in recent years. Experts point to increased globalization and climate change as factors enabling tropical insects and diseases to thrive in southern, eastern, and western states of the U.S.

Thomas Scott, a medical entomologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, expressed grave concerns during the workshop. “If we don't do anything, which is basically what we're doing right now, it's going to get worse," he stated. Scott highlighted the ethical implications of inaction, noting the potentially enormous damage that could result.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), the U.S. has significantly reduced its capacity to track insects. The country has gone from having a state entomologist in every state in 1927 to having only 16 currently. This decrease, as noted by Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC, has weakened the nation's ability to monitor viruses like West Nile.

Officials have recently predicted record numbers of dengue fever infections by the end of the year. Jeremy Farrar, the chief scientist for the World Health Organization (WHO), has warned of the disease's potential spread to non

tropical parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and southern regions of Africa.

Dengue fever can result in high fever, headaches, vomiting, skin rashes, joint pain, and muscle spasms. Known as "breakbone fever," severe cases can lead to bleeding and even be fatal. The disease is highly prevalent in Asia and Latin America, causing around 20,000 deaths annually.

Singapore's effective control of its mosquito population was highlighted as a model for the U.S. to emulate.

Singapore's surveillance program, which tracks dengue cases by neighborhood and issues phone alerts during rises in cases, along with strict regulations for controlling mosquito breeding sites, were cited as active approaches worth considering in the U.S. context.

This emerging health concern underlines the need for heightened vigilance and proactive measures in the U.S. to counter the spread of tropical viruses, safeguard public health, and prevent potential outbreaks.

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