Mar 7, 2019

Zika, dengue, and yellow fever are about to get much worse

United States
by
Kelsey Piper
,
Vox
Officers fumigate informal living areas of Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 31, 2019, to prevent dengue fever and viruses caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Photo: Dasril Roszandi, NurPhoto via Getty Images
Officers fumigate informal living areas of Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 31, 2019, to prevent dengue fever and viruses caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Photo: Dasril Roszandi, NurPhoto via Getty Images

Climate change, urbanization, and changes in human populations have driven many beloved species to the brink of extinction. But one of the deadliest animals in the world — the mosquito — is thriving.

Around 700,000 people die every year from mosquito-borne disease. The biggest culprit is malaria, but other mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika, have proliferated wildly in recent years, and now make up a substantial share of the global burden of mosquito-borne disease. By some estimates, the number of dengue infections has increased 30-fold in the past 30 years.

The culprit? Climate change, plus urbanization and changes in where human populations are concentrated. And a new study in Nature Microbiology suggests that things will only get worse. Using statistical mapping techniques, they model how two disease-carrying mosquitos, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, have spread over the last 30 years, and predict how they’ll spread over the next 30.