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Steve Heimel is scheduled to host a discussion tomorrow (2007 Dec 4) about the possible disease impacts (positive and negative) of environmental change in Alaska. Talk of Alaska is broadcast live statewide on the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Audio from the program is [usually] posted online following the live broadcast. [Fran Ulmer’s program from 2007 Nov 20 is uncharacteristically not up yet.]

I’ve mentioned several potential problems here, which I hope get discussed —

Another strong possibility might be dengue fever. Parts of Maui, for example, have been under mosquito control measures and health alerts. Dengue fever is another mosquito-borne disease, but of aedes mosquitoes, not the anopheles mosquitoes which carry malaria. Does anyone know the abundance and proportion of our mosquito genera? We have culex mosquitoes (“West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes such as this one, Culex pipiens, also known as the northern house mosquito.”) There is a catalog of The mosquitoes of Alaska [pdf file] but published in 1961 and new ones are found ( http://tinyurl.com/2835kf)

The reasons for the dramatic global emergence of DF/DHF as a major public health problem are complex and not well understood. However, several important factors can be identified.

1. First, major global demographic changes have occurred, the most important of which have been uncontrolled urbanization and concurrent population growth. These demographic changes have resulted in substandard housing and inadequate water, sewer, and waste management systems, all of which increase Ae. aegypti population densities and facilitate transmission of Ae. aegypti-borne disease.
2. In most countries the public health infrastructure has deteriorated. Limited financial and human resources and competing priorities have resulted in a “crisis mentality” with emphasis on implementing so-called emergency control methods in response to epidemics rather than on developing programs to prevent epidemic transmission. This approach has been particularly detrimental to dengue control because, in most countries, surveillance is (just as in the U.S.) passive; the system to detect increased transmission normally relies on reports by local physicians who often do not consider dengue in their differential diagnoses. As a result, an epidemic has often reached or passed its peak before it is recognized.
3. Increased travel by airplane provides the ideal mechanism for infected human transport of dengue viruses between population centers of the tropics, resulting in a frequent exchange of dengue viruses and other pathogens.
4. Lastly, effective mosquito control is virtually nonexistent in most dengue-endemic countries. Considerable emphasis in the past has been placed on ultra-low-volume insecticide space sprays for adult mosquito control, a relatively ineffective approach for controlling Ae. aegypti.

We don’t do any mosquito control now except burn Pics inside houses (negatively affects human health so the outdoor mozzies get us faster) and provide sheltered breeding areas such as trash and tires. Mosquitoes may also bring heartworms which affect dogs. And how can we forget flies and SWMP flying anuk?

There is pandemic and avian influenzas–

[while the current Arctic and sub-Arctic regions may result in a lower population density of birds and their shed viruses (and also people) it is the lower density and not the “Arctic” per se which affects the infection rate of the virus. However, the lower density may be only of the birds. Other research [cited here, flu viruses survive tundra ponds and here, Frozen fecal bird flu types] has shown that the viruses may survive in ponds between breeding seasons (over winter) and thus might accumulate or become more concentrated in numbers. As we know from disease ecology and biocultural anthropology, the disease process involves several factors besides presence and abundance of the infective microorganism. mpb]

While snow blindness may be less likely, cataracts from exposure to more sunlight (getting out on water without sunglasses) and skin cancers may compensate. Elk may move in, but so might chronic wasting disease. If winters are warmer, then indoor air pollution may drop with decreased wood stove and oil furnaces.

I’m sure Steve will have lots of other skin-crawly things to discuss (and to prepare for).


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