FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mosquito Gap: Climate Change and Infectious Diseases

OK, I admit it, I’m a freeloader.

My neighbors asked if I’d go in on a mosquito control service last spring, and I turned them down. I was skeptical about whether the “eco-friendly” service would actually work. But I was mostly taken aback by the cost: $750 for the season.

Several neighbors went ahead and paid for the service, which proved so effective I was able to enjoy my back yard for the first time without first dousing myself with bug spray.

I felt guilty — and not just because I was mooching off somebody else’s pricy pest control. I’d also been forced to recognize yet one more way privileged people like me are often insulated from public problems.

As fears of mosquito-borne diseases increase and public pest management spending falls far short, private control services are rapidly expanding. The Zika outbreak in 2016 helped kick up residential mosquito control revenues by an estimated 12.6 percent. Demand has also created a market for automatic home spraying systems, which run about $4,000.

For low-income Americans, the cost of these services would be prohibitive. Yet poor neighborhoods are more likely to have severe mosquito problems.

A three-year study in Baltimore found that the greater prevalence of good mosquito breeding grounds in poor neighborhoods, including abandoned buildings and accumulated trash, led to worse infestations than in more affluent areas.

Another study in one Georgia county found that neighborhoods made up mostly of people of color were 4.5 times more likely than whites to be at risk of West Nile, while residents of high poverty areas were 5.5 times more likely to be at risk.

In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control received reports of more than 2,000 cases of West Nile virus from across the United States — and 121 people died from the disease. The actual number of cases is likely much higher, since the poor are also more likely to lack health insurance, and thus avoid seeking medical treatment if they do become ill.

Public health problems related to mosquitoes aren’t going away.

As climate change improves environmental conditions for mosquitoes, it increases the risks of the diseases they carry. According to Climate Central, in dozens of cities across the Midwest, Northeast, and along the Atlantic Coast, mosquito seasons have grown by at least 20 days over the past 35 years.

Despite this growing menace, public funding for mosquito control has declined by more than 60 percent since 2004, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

In North Carolina, for example, the state government cut all funding for such programs in 2014. And while some counties and cities in that state began paying for private services, other cash-strapped communities have not. The Asian tiger mosquito, which has the ability to transmit West Nile virus as well as other diseases like Chikungunya and dengue fever, has been found in every county in the state.

In the long-term, the impacts of this underfunding could be catastrophic.

In 2017, a team of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other researchers analyzed the potential costs of a major Zika attack in the Southeast United States and Texas. They concluded that efforts to control and treat the disease, which causes neurological defects in growing fetuses, could cost from $1.2 billion to as much as $10.3 billion.

On top of all the other challenges facing people in poor communities, they shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick from mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the White House budget proposal for 2019 would cut resources for the Centers for Disease Control — the nation’s health protection agency — by 20 percent.

Closing the mosquito gap is going to take a much bigger commitment than that.

More articles by:

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail