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Hurricane season brings harsh weather and disease

Posted on: July 25th, 2019

For those who live along the coast of North America, you’re well aware that hurricane season is now upon us.

In the Atlantic, it runs from June 1 through November 30; in the Pacific, from May 15 through November 30. Still, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center states the majority of hurricanes tend to form during peak season from August to October (on both coasts).

A new study out of Georgia State and Arizona State suggests hurricanes are more than just meteorological events. They believe they’re linked to the spread of mosquito-borne infectious diseases.

The study revealed that mosquito populations dramatically increase after a hurricane, especially given the overwhelming presence of stagnant water – breeding grounds for mosquitos.

As infrastructures decline in the wake of a hurricane, infection rates are higher as hurricanes occur when mosquitos are able to pass along viruses to humans.

“Mosquitos are very sensitive to temperature not only in terms of their ability to survive and reproduce, but also in their ability to infect individuals,” said Gerardo Chowell, Professor of Mathematical Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Chowell added, “The warmer it is, the faster an infected mosquito will be able to transmit the virus. Considering that mosquitos have an average lifespan of less than two weeks, that temperature difference can have a dramatic effect on disease outbreaks.”

Population displacement can also increase the spread of disease – reducing local infections, while increasing the number of cases elsewhere, where people have evacuated to.

Charles Perrings, Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State and a co-author of the study said, “Since mosquito-borne diseases tend to be spread by the movement of people rather than the movement of mosquitoes, disaster-induced movements of people can shift where and when outbreaks occur.”

As hurricanes become more frequent due to the impacts of our changing climate, further studies will need to be conducted to understand how these natural disasters may very well play a part in disease transmission.

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