Is there a link between the recent spread of mosquito-borne diseases around the world and environmental pollution?
— Meg Ross, Lantana, FL
If by pollution you mean greenhouse gas emissions, then definitely yes. According to Maria Diuk-Wasser at the Yale School of Public Health, the onset of human-induced global warming is likely to increase the infection rates of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever and West Nile virus by creating more mosquito-friendly habitats.
“The direct effects of temperature increase are an increase in immature mosquito development, virus development and mosquito biting rates, which increase contact rates (biting) with humans,” she reports.
To wit, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a record number of West Nile virus infections in the continental U.S. in 2012 with some 5,674 documented cases including 286 deaths. The virus uses insects as hosts where they reproduce and then are transmitted to …