Insects serve a vital purpose in the ecosystem, but they can also cause destruction and even death. Throughout history, insects have been a major source of infection. Some species are able to carry diseases and transmit them to humans.
Right now we’re dealing with that scenario has experts work to contain the Zika virus. But even just a few years ago, other infections caused serious concern in Alabama. Here’s a look at different insect-borne diseases that have plagued the state.
Of all the insects in the world, the mosquito is the biggest culprit for the spread of disease. One of the worst infections that can be contracted from mosquitoes is yellow fever.
Today, yellow fever isn’t a huge concern because we have vaccines. However, it has plagued Alabama in the past. The state had a number of outbreaks in the 1800s. In 1819, 1853 and 1858 yellow fever outbreaks hit Mobile. Several years ago, a mass grave was discovered in Montgomery that’s believed to be a result of a yellow fever epidemic in 1878. During that outbreak, Alabama and seven other states were affected, and ultimately 16,000 people died.
Like yellow fever, malaria is spread through mosquito bites. But unlike yellow fever, cases of malaria are still occurring in Alabama. Just last summer, a person who was thought to have ebola actually had malaria. In 2014, a Mobile teenager was also diagnosed with malaria. Although outbreaks have occurred in the early 1900s, these latest cases of malaria were contracted by the individuals while traveling abroad.
Along with yellow fever and dengue, malaria is responsible for millions of deaths each year around the world. Fortunately, malaria is rare in the U.S., and the disease is curable if it’s detected early.
Dengue fever is yet another serious disease spread by mosquitoes. Typically, cases are somewhat mild, but dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHV) is much more severe. If left untreated, DHV can cause death. The Alabama Department of Public Health notes that currently there is no vaccine that can prevent dengue fever.
The spread of dengue fever across the south became national news in 1964. Between 1995 and 2005, nine cases of dengue fever were reported in Alabama. Concerns over dengue fever in the U.S. have been renewed recently after outbreaks in Hawaii and Florida.
West Nile Virus
Less than a decade ago, mosquito control became a top priority in Alabama because of concerns over the West Nile Virus (WNV). WNV is spread by mosquitoes that have contracted the disease from birds. It’s a dangerous disease because in severe cases it can cause inflammation in the brain and around the spinal cord. This can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
The Center for Disease Control reports that there were 245 cases of WNV in Alabama between 1999 and 2014. The disease became a public health concern again in 2015 when Mobile County had several confirmed cases.
If you take a trek out in the woods, you’ll want to do a tick check as soon as you get home. Why? Lyme disease can be transferred from a brown deer tick to a human, and if it isn’t caught early and treated it can do serious damage that leads to chronic complications.
Late last year, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced concerns over the growing number of Lyme disease cases. In 2010, there were just two cases. However, that number increased to 64 cases in 2014. Lyme disease has become so prevalent in the state that the Alabama Lyme Disease Association was formed.
The Zika virus is the latest infectious concern for people in Alabama, and across the entire U.S. This mosquito-borne illness has quickly spread from South America up Central America and into North America. Experts believe the Zika virus will be controlled, but not before an outbreak originates in the U.S. The most recent Zika reports indicate that this summer we’ll likely see cases in the southern states.
This is a perfect example of how fast insect-borne diseases can spread today. Health officials are warning that rapid travel and warm weather conditions are increasing how fast diseases spread. They are worried that our ability to travel great distances before realizing we’re infected could lead to epidemic conditions.
You can help safeguard yourself and your family by using custom pest control treatments to protect your property. Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. has been a trusted pest control company in Central Alabamasince 1965. Our team understands the unique needs of the area and how to control insects so they don’t pose a threat at your home or business. Give us a call today to discuss how we can help you control mosquitoes, ticks and more.