Experts warn that the United States faces a “tremendous” growing threat from tropical viruses

Experts warn that the United States faces a “tremendous” growing threat from tropical viruses

Global public health experts warn that the United States is not prepared to confront the looming threats posed by tropical and insect-borne viruses.

At a two-day workshop this week at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C., experts said viral threats, or viruses carried by mosquitoes and ticks, are spreading in non-tropical environments.

Tropical diseases such as malaria, Zika, and dengue fever have seen transmission and outbreaks in the United States in recent years. Experts said that increasing globalization and climate change are allowing tropical insects and diseases to flourish in the southern, eastern and western states of the United States in particular.

“If we don’t do anything, which we’re doing now, it’s going to get worse,” Thomas Scott, a medical entomologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, said during the workshop. “The harm caused by inaction is enormous, and it is unacceptable. It is unethical.”

Newsweek I reached out to Scott and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) via email for comment.

Stockholm researcher
A researcher adds beet juice containing a specific molecule to a cage of mosquitoes in a laboratory at Stockholm University on December 15, 2021. Global public health experts warn that the United States is not prepared to confront the looming threats posed by the tropics and transmitted by the insects. . Viruses.
AFP/Getty Images

The United States has lost much of its ability to track the insects, National Public Radio (NPR) reported Friday. In 1927, each state had its own entomologist. Currently, only 16 states have an entomologist, according to Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

“This means that the country’s ability to monitor viruses like West Nile virus is minimal,” Staples told the conference. “We’re not getting great information because we haven’t maintained our infrastructure.”

Officials recently predicted record numbers of dengue infections by the end of the year. WHO chief scientist Jeremy Farrar warned that the disease is expected to begin spreading to other non-tropical parts of the world, including Europe, North America and southern regions of Africa.

The disease develops after initial infection with the dengue virus, and can lead to high fever, headache, vomiting, and a prominent rash. Dengue fever is also known as ‘broken bone fever’ and is also known to lead to joint pain and muscle spasms.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that about 5% of those infected will develop a severe case of dengue, which can severely affect blood health and lead to bleeding, while about 1% will develop an ultimately fatal condition. This disease is particularly common in Asia and Latin America, where it causes an estimated 20,000 deaths annually.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported on a rise in dengue fever in Mali, an arid West African country.

The country’s Director-General of Health and Public Hygiene, Dr. Cheikh Amadou Tidiane Traoré, told the Associated Press that his administration had counted 21 deaths and 600 cases of the disease as of Monday, December 4.

Meanwhile, experts at the National Academies conference pointed to Singapore as a country that has demonstrated the ability to control its mosquito population.

They said the country’s surveillance program that tracks dengue cases by neighborhood and its phone alerts when cases rise are active methods the United States could emulate. Singapore residents can also be fined or imprisoned for harboring mosquito breeding sites at home.