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How can the United States prevent the spread of mosquito-borne viruses within the United States?

Discussion Leader: 
Posted Date: 01/25/2016

The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness, continues to spread across countries and several cases have been diagnosed in the United States. Mosquito-borne illnesses including malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya, kill more than one million people worldwide each year. 

Digitally-colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of the West Nile virus (WNV) (Image Courtesy:CDC)


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Full prevention of mosquito-borne viruses is unlikely, especially in the instance of new and emerging diseases. The time necessary to create a suitable vaccine is not always rapid enough for sudden outbreaks. Culling the mosquito population would reduce the overall amount of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the virus. On such solution involves a genetically modified mosquito created by a British company appears to reduce populations by producing offspring that die before developing into adulthood. [1] However, it may be too early to jump into drastically lowering the mosquito population, especially before studying the potential impacts on the rest of the local ecosystem.

[1] Allen, G. (2016). Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Join the Fight to Stop Zika Virus. National Public Radio. Retrieved from

The threat of a new disease is always frightening, especially when they have debilitating consequences and the Zika virus is alarming because of the horrible birth defects associated with it. There have been an overwhelming number of cases in South America and there is a good chance of it spreading to the United States, if it has not already. There are a few things that the United States can do to prevent the illnesses caused by mosquito-borne viruses, including raising awareness through public service announcements for the use of proper medication or vaccinations. Because mosquitoes are a vector for Zika and many other diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya, it is difficult to completely stop the spread of illness. Funding of new research that is going into genetically modifying mosquitoes to help reduce the mosquito population will help in preventing the spread of disease. Also, if people are aware and able to reduce the breeding grounds for mosquitoes, that will go a long way to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne viruses. Ultimately it is up to the American people to take a proactive step in educating ourselves of the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses and in preventing it.

Zika virus outbreaks have been confirmed in many countries, including the Pacific Islands, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, etc. Although Zika virus has spread across two United States territories and there have been a few cases from returning travelers, no locally transmitted Zika virus has occurred within the continental United States.

The United States, and other countries, must remain active in preparing, preventing, and responding to these types of viruses. There are several current research endeavors to combat these diseases, including creating genetically modified mosquitos using CRISPR to build up resistance, vaccines/medications for prevention or treatment, and designing sound-baited traps to lure male mosquitoes. Awareness of recommended practices, such as repellent, wearing protective clothing, and limited travel, is another way to limit exposure to these viruses. Planning and open communication by health officials is another way to encourage the spread of ideas, recommendations, and current updates of the diseases’ progressions is another way to protect the nation against these threats.

[1/29/16, 10:05 AM] Eric Barnwell (erbarnwell

Post from HDIAC Social Networks:
Seems that one possibility would be limit mosquito breeding. As you know only the female needs blood to make eggs, so if there are no fertile eggs I think they will continue to feed on other food sources. One of the other LinkedIn posts (couldn't find it now) talked about releasing sterile male mosquitoes as a possible control method. Limiting mosquitoes has ecological impact so must be handled carefully. Perhaps a geographic zone that could act like a barrier? Here is a link. I am sure there are others:

Post from HDIAC Social Networks:

This would be the same as for any mosquito borne illness--- surveillance and eradication of mosquitoes. When you have a critter that can that can go from eggs to larvae to pupa to adult in as little as 4 days, all you need is a potted plant with a drainage saucer in a shady spot and you could end up with a whole herd of mosquitoes in no time flat! This takes vigilance on an individual level that is hard to control. Authorities can spray and treat ponds, puddles, etc., but how do you control what goes on in a summer wading pool in the average American back yard? You can't, so this takes world-wide education and ongoing reminders about the life-cycle of mosquitoes.

Post from HDIAC Social Networks:

Mosquitoes play an important role in helping to balance our ecosystem so I think that it is imperative to understand that killing off mosquitoes does cause damage in other ways. I do agree, though, that educating people on mosquitoes and ways to decrease or prevent exposure to them is the best line of defense.

Post from HDIAC Social Networks:

Remove or treat Low areas after rain that collect water and retention ponds. Mosquitoes lay eggs in water.