Global Community Must Be ‘More Agile And Proactive’ In Preventing Mosquito-Borne Diseases

The Week: Cannot be complacent
Stephen S. Morse, professor of epidemiology and director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Certificate at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

“The response to the Zika virus is fairly typical of both our strengths and weaknesses in dealing with infectious diseases, especially when they emerge. … [B]ut these efforts were somewhat slow to get started and preceded by the usual complacency. … We really need to be more agile and proactive in our response. We neglect public health measures at our peril. Vaccines are good public health measures, but public health is not just vaccines. … Aedes aegypti, the chief mosquito vector for yellow fever, dengue, and Zika (among others) came to the Western hemisphere with the slave trade, over 400 years ago. … Ironically, if the mosquito control efforts [of the 20th century] had been kept up, we probably would not be talking about [dengue or Zika] today. The Indian subcontinent, fortunately, has never had yellow fever but has plenty of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Only our vigilance and good fortune can prevent yellow fever from becoming established the same way dengue and Zika have in South America. We really cannot afford to remain complacent until the crisis hits” (5/5).