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Thursday, February 4, 2016

HOW DANGEROUS ARE MOSQUITOS?


Last month I had a posting that showed the following:



Humans are our second worst animal, murdering 475,000/year.  However, mosquitos are our #1 killer, causing more deaths than all the other animals put together, including us.  Some surprises:
  • Sharks  are responsible for only ten human deaths/year.  We kill up to 273,000,000 sharks/year.
  • Through a  freshwater snail, a parasitic flat worm, is said to kill 10,000 of us/year through a disease called schistosomiasis (also known, as bilharzia, snail fever and Katayama fever).  Worse, another source cites 200,000 deaths/year.  How can two sources be so different?  That is the nature of infotech today.  I haven't hiked recently in Hawaii, but I recall seeing warning signs for schistosomiasis.  They gotta still be there.
  • Dogs kill 25,000 people/year.  There is no movement to eliminate dogs as pets, although pit bulls and rottweilers are having a tough time.  Most dog-caused deaths outside of the USA are the result of rabies, and reports of up to 55,000/year have been reported.  Again, a large discrepancy.
  • While we are responsible for nearly half a million intentional homicides/year, even with the most guns/capita (no country is even close to us), the USA is nowhere near the top, and, in fact, we have only between a fifth to a tenth the murder rate of some countries in Central America.
Most of the mosquito kills are from Malaria, through a parasite carried by the female Anopheles, (right), which doesn't feed during the daytime.  It is estimated that 200 million people annually suffer from this disease, with most of the subsequent deaths occurring in Africa.  However, the good news is that fatalities have dropped by 42% over the past dozen years through better diagnosis, pesticides and bed nets.  Finally, the first malaria vaccine was approved for use last year.  So soon we can expect humans edging up to #1 as the animal most responsible for our deaths.

So what about Dengue and Zika?  Let me start with dengue, which according to one article says:

Dengue fever is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world - and the most rapidly spreading - with a 30-fold increase in global incidence over the past 50 years. - See more at: http://www.eliminatedengue.com/our-research/dengue-fever#sthash.nVqyAXXC.dpuf



The World Health Organization of the United Nations (Director Margaret Chan to the right) historically has done a lot of irrational things, but, surely, the above quote cannot be right, for, while malaria kills 475,000/year, dengue is only responsible for 25,000 deaths/year.  True,  though, that there are an estimated 390 million dengue infections/year, double of malaria, and that 30-fold increase over the past half a century cannot be discounted.  

In any case, I have now and then posted on the overreaction of the media and our governments.  Here, a quote of seven years ago from The Huffington Post:

  The truth is that the truly dangerous virus is not the swine flu, but the medium itself. The pandemic is this resultant overreaction.

In any case, should Hawaii be concerned?  Sure, but consider that we have had 250 dengue cases with no deaths, while the world stands at 25,000 deaths and 390,000,000 cases.  On a comparative scale, what we are suffering from here is less that trivial.  I wouldn't want to get dengue, so should Governor David Ige declare a state of emergency.?  I think not, but we will find out tomorrow what the masses feel, for the Star Advertiser's Big Q question today is:  Is it time for Hawaii to declare a state emergency over the dengue outbreak, spread by mosquitos?  You can still vote!**

I would not be surprised if I again am in the minority, BUT HOW MANY RESPONDING TO THIS QUESTION KNOW THAT WE ONLY HAVE 250 DENGUE CASES WITH NO DEATHS, WHILE THE WORLD SUFFERS FROM 390 MILLION CASES AND 25,000 DEATHS/YEAR?  For some reason that befuddles me, I have yet to ever see on the local TV news or read in the newspapers about these statistics.  Either the media are irresponsibly ignorant or are being purposely deceptive.  I do regularly observe on television Hawaii State Senator Josh Green (right), a medical doctor who graduated from Penn State, anguishing about the lack of State government resources being applied to this problem to protect his constituency.  But, it doesn't hurt his cause one bit by seeming to be responsible.

The Zika virus is spread by the same Aedes mosquitoes causing dengue, such as the A. aegypti (left).  This is a daytime-feeding mosquito, and, yes, only females get you.  Keep in mind that mosquitos generally only remain near the ground, and will not venture above the first floor if there is no tree around.  They are, though, found at tops of trees and can be wind blown to higher floors.   I must get stung several times/year just around 15 Craigside, but I have yet to see one on my 12th floor.  Mosquitos like me.

As has been the case for many of these "new" diseases, the origin, only since the 1950's, was Africa, Uganda's Zika forest.  Migration occurred eastward, through Asia, French Polynesia, Easter Island, Mexico, Central America and now at the hotbed, Brazil.  The virus itself is related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile.  Transmission, apparently can also be by unprotected sexual intercourse and monkeys.   The usual flu-like symptoms, with no known deaths.  The danger is that pregnant females can transfer the virus to their fetus, causing microcephaly, where newborns suffer from neurological defects such as impaired intellectual development, including deaths.  The symptom is obvious:  reduced head size.   


Brazil has confirmed more than 3,500 microcephaly cases just over the past four months.  You've now got to wonder if dengue also might be responsible for heretofore unsuspected inherited deficiencies.  And, what about malaria?

Now, 24 countries apparently are infected with the Zika virus, 30 in the U.S., one in Honolulu.  Four million world-wide cases are predicted for 2016.  A vaccine is expected, but this will take several years.

**  As suspected, The Big Q results of:

Is it time for Hawaii to declare a state of emergency over the dengue outbreak, spread by mosquitos:

  • 59%  Yes; fear dengue, Zika viruses
  • 35%  Concerned, but not yet
  • 6%    Unconcerned; it's contained.
But, that's not all, for Richard Borecca, on his op-ed piece of 5 February 16 sided with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who called out the state administration for not being aggressive enough, saying an emergency proclamation from the governor was long overdue.

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