In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control received reports of more than 2,000 cases of West Nile virus from across the United States — and 121 people died from the disease. The actual number of cases is likely much higher, since the poor are also more likely to lack health insurance, and thus avoid seeking medical treatment if they do become ill.
Public health problems related to mosquitoes aren’t going away.
As climate change improves environmental conditions for mosquitoes, it increases the risks of the diseases they carry. According to Climate Central, in dozens of cities across the Midwest, Northeast, and along the Atlantic Coast, mosquito seasons have grown by at least 20 days over the past 35 years.
Despite this growing menace, public funding for mosquito control has declined by more than 60 percent since 2004, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
In North Carolina, for example, the state government cut all funding for such programs in 2014. And while some counties and cities in that state began paying for private services, other cash-strapped communities have not. The Asian tiger mosquito, which has the ability to transmit West Nile virus as well as other diseases like Chikungunya and dengue fever, has been found in every county in the state.
In the long-term, the impacts of this underfunding could be catastrophic.
In 2017, a team of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other researchers analyzed the potential costs of a major Zika attack in the Southeast United States and Texas. They concluded that efforts to control and treat the disease, which causes neurological defects in growing fetuses, could cost from $1.2 billion to as much as $10.3 billion.
On top of all the other challenges facing people in poor communities, they shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick from mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the White House budget proposal for 2019 would cut resources for the Centers for Disease Control — the nation’s health protection agency — by 20 percent.
Closing the mosquito gap is going to take a much bigger commitment than that.