Magazine article USA TODAY

El Nino Makes Mosquitoes Thrive

Magazine article USA TODAY

El Nino Makes Mosquitoes Thrive

Article excerpt

As goes El Nino, so goes Aedes aegypti, some public health officials fear. As climatic events become more pronounced, the range and prevalence of a mosquito whose disease-transmitting ways already put half the world's population at risk might expand even more.

While that is a very real concern, predicting the ebb and flow of populations of the mosquito that transmits dengue, a family of debilitating and sometimes fatal viral diseases, has been more art than science until now. A computer model being honed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may help predict when and where in the world the mosquito might show up in response to large-scale climate events like El Nino. Developed by graduate student Marianne Hopp and climatologist Jonathan Foley, it uses climate data such as precipitation, temperature, humidity, and cloud cover to predict the weather's influence on the mosquito during its four life stages.

Aedes aegypti, the principal carrier of the dengue virus, has expanded its range from its primordial home in Africa to most of the tropical and subtropical world. It is especially prevalent in urban areas, where it breeds in rainwater that accumulates in discarded tires and containers. Although dengue is little known in the U.S., it is characterized by the World Health Organization as the most common mosquito-borne viral disease, putting as many as 2,500,000,000 people at risk.

Also known as breakbone fever, dengue is characterized by headache, fever, sore muscles, and extreme pain and stiffness of the joints. …

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