The West Nile virus is a fairly modern mosquito-borne disease. Diseases like malaria and dengue have been infecting people all over the world for decades. West Nile started infecting Americans in 1999. Since then some summers have seen high transmission rates, while other summers saw far lower rates of infection. The virus seems to fluctuate in severity. Luckily, West Nile is not as deadly as some other mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria. But according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than forty four thousand cases of West Nile have been reported during the past eighteen years, and some of those cases have resulted in death. The virus seemed to have come out of nowhere in the late 1990s, and since then experts have only been able to speculate as to how the virus wound up infecting so many Americans. Now one scientist believes that the West Nile virus was brought to America from Israel.
This week scientists from all over the world are meeting in Bonn, Germany in order to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Many global issues will be discussed at the conference, especially mosquito-borne diseases. During the past few years certain mosquito species have been spreading diseases internationally. Many countries have been seeing outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases recently, which is why understanding which mosquitoes species spread disease will be a matter of discussion. The logistics of prevention and control efforts managed by multiple countries will also be discussed. However, many attendees are curious about what an epidemiologist and professor, Jurgen May, thinks about the origins of the West Nile virus. According to May, a mosquito from Tel Aviv, Israel likely hopped a flight destined for New York in 1999. This one single mosquito then mated with aedes aegypti mosquitoes in America. The virus spread quickly in America since mosquitoes are so numerous. May reached this conclusion after analyzing the virus, which is similar to a mosquito-borne virus that had infected a goose in Israel in 1998. More research is needed before this theory is taken as truth, but so far many other researchers seem to agree with May’s findings.
Do you think that a mosquito could survive a transatlantic flight between Israel and the US?
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