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Anyone living within the United States or any other fully developed western country should consider themselves lucky for having ready access to health care and for being geographically situated in an area where disease transmission rates are relatively low. However, the regions of the world where the most dangerous insect-borne diseases are transmitted to humans can become altered by climate change. Many researchers believe that climate change is exposing new regions in America to disease-carrying ticks, and the recent Zika outbreaks that occurred a few years back was largely blamed on climate change. Experts believe that even slight temperature increases can expose entire populated regions to insect-borne diseases that had not been threats in the region before.

With or without climate change, an unanticipated outbreak of a new mosquito-borne disease can occur within the United States. In fact, such an event occurred less than a century ago in the United States. Back in the early 1930s, a sudden outbreak of an unknown mosquito-borne disease killed hundreds of people in the United States. This outbreak introduced the world to a new mosquito-borne disease that is still a threat to Americans today. Worst of all, there does not exist any vaccines to prevent the disease, nor does there exist any forms of medication to treat the disease’s symptoms.

During the 1930s, Americans referred to this new disease as “sleeping sickness,” but now the mosquito-borne disease is known as “St. Louis encephalitis,” as the city was particularly hard hit by the unknown disease. The first outbreak occured in St. Louis in 1933, infecting 1,300 people and killing 283. Initially, medical experts believed that the disease may have been spread by flies. Considering that, at the time, doctors believed that it was possible for the disease to spread through the air, many sufferers of the new mosquito-borne disease were forced to leave hospitals lest they infect others. Panicked citizens were urged to avoid traveling and practice sanitary living habits until the disease was eventually recognized as being spread by mosquitoes. The most serious outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis occured in 1975. During this outbreak nearly 2,000 cases were reported.

Do you live in fear of insect-borne disease outbreaks?