Devastating hurricanes and fires in the United States and the Caribbean since August have demonstrated yet again that extreme weather exacerbated by climate change has created new risks. The suffering and damage caused by this extreme weather has, in turn, created additional new dangers to public health.
One of the more worrisome is the spread of disease, especially “vector-borne” diseases. These are diseases transmitted to humans through insect bites, most commonly by mosquitoes, ticks and flies. They include Zika, Lyme, Chikungunya and malaria. In 2015, malaria alone infected over 200 million people and caused about 438,000 deaths worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, the three key components that determine the prevalence of vector-borne diseases are the number and concentration of animals that host insects, the prevalence of disease-causing parasites and pathogens, and human behavior.