The invisible threat: Rising temperatures mean insects can carry viruses to wider areas

Winter was oddly mild in northern Texas in 2012, a year that saw few snowflakes and barely any ice. When the cold failed to show up, the spring mosquitoes arrived in droves, carrying disease.

The insects multiplied during an unusually muggy May, when temperatures hit the 90s and then stayed there. On June 20, Dallas recorded the season’s first case of West Nile virus. By late August, there were nearly 400.

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Part I: The great thaw
Nineteen people would die in the greater Dallas area in the worst West Nile outbreak in U.S. history. The 2012 epidemic alarmed health officials and triggered multiple inquiries into the possible causes. One finding would ring ominously in a region grappling with the impacts of climate change: When it comes to insect-borne disease, warmer is worse.

“With warmer weather, mosquitoes fly more and bite more. And warmth amplifies the infectivity and replication of the virus,” said Robert Haley, director of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and co-author of a major study on the 2012 outbreak. “If everything else stays the same, you could predict that a warmer climate makes things worse.”

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.washingtonpost.com

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