Hurricane Harvey increases public health threat from mosquitoes

August 31, 2017

By Alex Branch

Lee
 
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.

Thad Miller Systems Thinking Seminar
CDC and UNTHSC team up to discuss tuberculosis elimination

By Sally Crocker   HSC Insider Learn more about UNTHSC’s people and programs by signing up for the weekly HSC Insider email. Public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNT Health Science Center and Tarleton State University recentl...Read more

Nov 20, 2018

All of Us Event
NIH exhibit to boost medical breakthroughs coming to UNTHSC

By Alex Branch   HSC Insider Learn more about UNTHSC’s people and programs by signing up for the weekly HSC Insider email. Tarrant County residents have a unique opportunity to contribute to medical breakthroughs and health research this month when a National Ins...Read more

Nov 20, 2018

Meharvan Singh
Study: Progesterone protects the brain during stroke

By Jan Jarvis   HSC Insider Learn more about UNTHSC’s people and programs by signing up for the weekly HSC Insider email. Time is critical when someone has a stroke – especially the first three to four hours. That’s how long someone has to get to the hospi...Read more

Nov 19, 2018

Pa Fc
For physician assistant students, Friday lessons are hands-on and lecture-free

By Alex Branch   The physician assistant students huddled around Davey, a 5-year-old boy who wheezed and struggled to breathe. Students studied his medical history chart and leaned down to talk to him on the exam table. They calmed Davey’s mother and watched his vital signs on a digi...Read more

Nov 14, 2018