Hurricane Harvey increases public health threat from mosquitoes


Share this story:

By Alex Branch


 
Floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey are expected to remain in southeast Texas for some time. Among the public health concerns is how stagnant water could impact the mosquito population and potential transmission of associated diseases.

UNT Health Science Center’s medical entomologist Joon Lee, PhD, Associate Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, answered three questions about the risks.

Q: What impact could Hurricane Harvey have on the mosquito population?

Dr. Lee:  In the short term, the news is good. Hurricane Harvey should have washed away immature     mosquito populations from their breeding grounds. But mosquitos can rapidly reestablish themselves in stagnant water. That means their population will likely explode with the large increase in available breeding grounds.

Q: How soon could that explosion occur?

Dr. Lee:  It is very likely that within two weeks, the mosquito population will return in large numbers and remain for at least a month or two. The weather and availability of effective public health measures during the recovery could impact the size and length of mosquito explosion.

Q: What are the biggest public health concerns caused by a mosquito explosion?

Dr. Lee: Wherever a disaster occurs, the public health system responsible for responding to increases in mosquito activity and associated disease transmissions is usually weakened or lost. Meanwhile, people who suffer from that disaster may have weakened immune systems that increase their susceptibility to disease or hinder their ability to recover.

Increased transmission of potentially-life threatening, mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis are the biggest public health risks. Outbreaks of Zika, dengue fever and Chikungunya also are possible, although transmission of those diseases must originate from a person who is already infected.

Share this story:

Editorial questions measurement frequently used in population health studies

By Sally Crocker In a new American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) editorial, a UNT Health Science Center professor challenges a conventional research formula for measuring the health of populations, calling the method age discriminatory. M. Harvey Brenner, PhD, Professor of Health Behavio...Read more

Sep 22, 2017

A better way to treat back pain

By Jan Jarvis   Almost everyone suffers low back pain at some point in their lives. The question is how to relieve it. Researchers at UNT Health Science Center are working to find the answer. By analyzing the DNA of low back pain sufferers, the goal is to uncover which patients are ...Read more

Sep 21, 2017

Goldman Scholar

Goldman scholarship ‘means the world’ to driven student

By Jan Jarvis   Sarah Edwards has always ridden her bicycle everywhere – to high school classes and later college, to part-time jobs and everywhere else. She has no driver’s license and few options. “We’ve never really had a car,” Edwards said. “But that didn’t stop me...Read more

Sep 20, 2017

UNTHSC launches Alzheimer’s study

By Jan Jarvis   One of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted in the United States involving Mexican-Americans and Alzheimer’s disease is underway at UNT Health Science Center. The goal is to answer a consequential question: Why do Hispanics develop cognitive loss ...Read more

Sep 14, 2017