Mosquitoes can be a major annoyance during warmer months in Vermont and can occasionally transmit serious diseases. West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected in every county of Vermont and typically infects three or fewer Vermonters each year. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has also been detected in Vermont and caused two deaths in Rutland County in 2011.
Climate change is expected to affect mosquito-borne diseases in two ways:
- Increase the risk for people to get diseases that are already here.
- Bring in mosquito species that did not previously exist here, increasing the possibility for other mosquito-borne diseases to spread in Vermont.
Both mosquitoes and bird hosts are required for both of these diseases to persist, and climate change can affect populations of both. For example, warming temperatures can lengthen the season in which mosquitoes are out and biting, and accelerate the mosquito life cycle. This can mean more frequent contact between mosquitoes and their hosts, which can facilitate the spread of diseases. Changing precipitation patterns, with longer periods between rains but heavier rain events, may affect the amount of standing water that mosquitoes have to breed in. Climate change may also alter bird migration patterns, which can affect the transmission of diseases like WNV and EEE, although it is unknown as to what extent these changes affect disease transmission. The life cycle of these diseases is complex, so it is unclear exactly how climate change will affect them in the future.
There are certain mosquito-borne diseases such as the Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses that are transmitted by mosquito species that are not currently known to have established populations in Vermont. These diseases are traditionally associated with tropical and sub-tropical regions far to the south of Vermont. Unlike WNV and EEE, these diseases are transmitted primarily from person to person by the bite of infected mosquitoes, rather than from birds to people by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that transmit these viruses (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus) are not known to currently exist in Vermont, although Aedes albopictus is established in more southern areas of the Northeast. While climate change may influence the northern expansion of these mosquitoes, there are many other factors that have prevented the spread of these tropical diseases in the United States, including effective mosquito control.
- How to reduce your risks when travelling and after returning from Zika-affected areas
- Travel destinations where Zika virus is actively being transmitted
- How to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases when traveling
- Keep up with travel alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out which countries are currently at highest risk for mosquito-borne and other diseases