Idiot stupidity

Mosquitoes carrying serious diseases could become widespread across the UK in the next few decades as the climate warms, experts claim.

Biting insects that transmit “vector-borne” infections once confined to equatorial regions have already invaded parts of southern and eastern Europe.

Now a new study predicts it will not be long before the unwelcome visitors arrive in Britain, bringing with them tropical diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya.

The UK climate is already said to be suitable for mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, an infection that causes a flu-like illness which on rare occasions can prove fatal.

Mosquito control is not a function of temperature. It’s a function of drainage and spraying. Which is why malaria used to be endemic in this country when it was cooler and now is entirely absent.

32 thoughts on “Idiot stupidity”

  1. Hmmm. I remember being told when I was in Singapore that you could get a nasty fine for leaving any still water outside in flowerpots etc because the mosquitos will breed in there. As a result Singapore has much better prevention in that sense than the UK. However, still, there is dengue fever in Singapore and not in the UK. I think temperature may well be a function of controlling that species of mosquito. Similarly when at home in Dongguan in the summer the best way of stopping the bloody things buzzing in my ear all night is to turn on the A/C. Whether it’s the temperature or air movement that helps then I’m unsure.

  2. bloke (not) in spain

    Insects aren’t the only vector for the malaria parasite, are they? One part of the life cycle’s in the human host. If you’re trying to prevent malaria it probably isn’t a good idea to have an open door to people carrying the parasite, either.

  3. Well partly. Warmer places are more hospitable to species of mozzie that are more effective at transmitting malaria, which is one reason it’s been harder to eradicate in warmer places.

  4. @b(n)is,

    You’d need a mosquito to bite your infected visitor (before he found out he was a carrier and sought treatment) and then live long enough to pass on by biting someone else.

    I think there was a case in Italy a few years ago. Hardly worth “slamming the door” for.

  5. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “Warmer places are more hospitable to species of mozzie that are more effective at transmitting malaria, which is one reason it’s been harder to eradicate in warmer places.”

    Partly. As in not much. China does not have malaria. The lying mass murdering Communist government says so. Still might be true. Even though people walk in and out of the country from places that do have malaria, like Burma. China is very warm in the south. Still no malaria.

    A lack of malaria control is mainly due to government incompetence.

  6. Well obviously we don’t want any mosquitoes here, so the first thing to do is to tax them, followed by plain wrappers and a health warning, and if that doesn’t work, an outright ban.

  7. So Much for Subtlety

    Alex – “Well obviously we don’t want any mosquitoes here, so the first thing to do is to tax them, followed by plain wrappers and a health warning, and if that doesn’t work, an outright ban.”

    Except that would be Culicidaephobic. We need to learn to accept and value difference. So we should welcome our new insect overlords, welcome the protozoan-rich into our homes and community, rigorously avoid any judgement about the supposed preferability of being Plasmodium-deficient, with new laws against discrimination if need be, and because of lingering prejudice among the elderly, we clearly need sensitivity classes aimed at the under-eights designed to teach them to embrace infection as a perfectly valid lifestyle choice.

  8. bloke (not) in spain

    @BiG
    The human host is part of the life cycle of the malaria parasite. it needs the whole cycle. No infected vertibrate hosts, no mosquito carriers, no malaria.

  9. It is bullshit from start to finish. The Highlands of Scotland are already plagued with gnats every summer from standing water. The BBC where filming some crap up there and had to surround their outdoor shooting with a half dozen phone-box sized gnat traps that were filled every day with dead gnats. So if mosquitos were set to thrive in the UK they would already be on the job. A non-existent temp increase isn’t going to make the slightest difference.

  10. England is naturally a very boggy, marshy place. We don’t notice it now because of the drainage that has taken place – not just the big famous ones like the Fens, but the myriads of minor works.

    Pretty well wherever you see a river on flattish ground in England there used to be a marsh/bog alongside all the damp boggy fields that were drained in the last 150 years.

    Used to be a happy hunting ground for mosquitoes, now not so much whatever the temperature…. except of course the fashion for wetlands and ‘rewilding’.

    That might be interesting :-))

  11. “Which is why malaria used to be endemic in this country when it was cooler and now is entirely absent.” I once asked an epidemiologist why malaria/ague had disappeared: it was his sort of area. He said it was a mystery, but that that didn’t stop know-alls explaining it.

    It’s a bit like the rise and fall of heart attacks: nobody has a clue why it has happened. That doesn’t stop medics claiming credit for the fall though.

  12. @Bnis, er, yes. Obviously.

    You can try and control the parasite or try and control the mosquitoes, but trying to control the humans is rather defeating the object.

  13. At the start of Little Ice Age the Somerset Levels were lethal with malaria then we imported some Dutch engineers who drained them and the malaria disappeared, then it got warmer post 1850 and still no malaria because the drainage ditches were maintained until Defra took over and decided to reinstate “natural habitat”. If malaria returns, I won’t be blaming climate change.

  14. bloke (not) in spain

    “You can try and control the parasite or try and control the mosquitoes, but trying to control the humans is rather defeating the object.”
    Why is it? Mosquitoes are not the problem, with malaria. Mosquitoes don’t suffer from malaria. Without having first bitten a malarial host, a bite from a mosquito is purely an annoyance. It’s the host is the problem.

  15. @b(n)is,

    Because mosquito species differ in their ability to transmit malaria. And we are fortunate to have poorly-transmitting Anopheles in Europe. Which is probably the biggest part of the reason that transmission from recent immigrants to people who have never been to malarial zones is so rare it makes headlines internationally.

    Incidentally, it is basically impossible to tell most Anopheles species apart by looking at them. I spent a year doing just that (can still tell you males from females if interested, and still go drinking occasionally with emeritus profs from LivSTM).

    Temperature does play a role (malaria has to undergo life cycle stages in the mosquito and that is easier/faster in warmer places).

    And yes, of course human density plays a part, but note that in endemic countries the cities are largely safe and rural areas not. How much that has to do with natural vector/human ratios (low in Lagos, high in East Bumfuck), how much to do with the fact that the cities are richer and better at vector control, who knows. As said earlier, no one is really that sure how we eradicated it, because it is a multi-dimensional problem. Vector control (spraying, nets, etc), parasite control (drugs), less poverty (healthier people more likely to fight it off themselves) all important and interplay. What’s clear is if you do nothing in poor areas you get malaria, if you do a lot in rich areas you get little to none.

    @SMFS, your writing is becoming increasingly difficult to interpret. China has plenty of malaria, probably less than it used to (but they are also better at measuring it now than in the past). Incidentally, almost all of it is in rural areas, to the extent westerners going to major cities don’t tend to bother with antimalarials (I never have and remain uninfected despite spending ~1 month per year in “moderate risk” areas of China for the last god knows).

  16. @ Ljh and Matthew L
    Siberia is HOT in summer, much too hot for me. I wilted when it got to 35C (95F) in the shade.

  17. “According to Professor Paul Reiter of the Institut Pasteur, the world’s foremost expert on vector-borne infectious diseases, the anopheles mosquito that carries the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria is almost entirely insensitive to ambient temperature. It needs a temperature of at least 59 degrees F (15 degrees C) during the breeding season, but is otherwise capable of surviving in the open at temperatures as low as –25 degrees C.

    Since most regions of the planet reach 15 degrees C in the summer, malaria is not – repeat not – a tropical disease. There is almost no region where the anopheles mosquito is incapable of surviving. For instance, the largest outbreak of malaria in modern times occurred in the 1920s and 1930s in northern Siberia, a territory not noted for its tropical climate. During the epidemic, some 13 million people were infected and 600,000 died; 30,000 of them as far north as the port of Arkhangelsk on the Arctic Circle. ”
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/scarewatch/global_warming_spreads_malaria.html

  18. Much of southern Italy used to be uninhabitable because of malaria – (read Norman Douglas); that’s one of the reasons all the towns are built on hilltops.

    Now, not so much.

    So Tim is right, it’s nothing to do with temperature and everything to do with drainage and spraying. Of course, it helps if you don’t have idiots banning DDT all over the place.

  19. Philip Scott Thomas

    Of course, it helps if you don’t have idiots banning DDT all over the place.

    How many deaths is Rachel Carson responsible for?

  20. bloke (not) in spain

    We’re not talking about Lagos, BiG. We’re talking about the UK. Currently UK mossies aren’t vectoring malaria because there’s few UK hosts to vector it from. Why go to the whole trouble & expense of a UK mossie control program when you can solve a UK malaria problem very simply. Don’t let malaria hosts into the country in the first place.
    Or do we do the same as TB? Once completely eradicated. Now returned thanks to the open door policy to TB carriers.

  21. Sorry Tim, but the “idiot stupidity” is yours. The article isn’t about malaria. Not surprisingly, some mosquitoes are better adapted to temperate climates than others. There are plenty of anopheles mosquitoes in the UK, but the article (here‘s the press release it’s based on) isn’t talking about them. The picture “a mosquito” is an Asian Tiger Mosquito, which is a (sub-)tropical species gradually spreading north.

    Obviously the fundamental consideration in malaria control is the life-cycle of the protozoan. If you can reduce its rate of reproduction below what’s needed for replacement, it will die out. That depends on the density of anopheles mosquitoes, the density of humans, and how often the mosquitoes feed on the humans. And on the temperature, because mosquitoes are cold-blooded and plasmodium multiplies inside the mosquito only in warm weather.

  22. @ PaulB
    Thanks for the link but Tim is not descending into idiot stupidity when saying that the conditions for breeding malaria-carrying mosquitoes are comparable (apart from temperature) to those for breeding the Asian Tiger mosquito. “Idiot stupidity” is better aimed at the journalist and anyone who thinks that we have such a shortage of used tyres in the UK that we need to import them.

  23. @b(n)is, people have been terrified of darkies bringing us dark diseases from the dark continent for ages. Remember ebola? Prior to that its last major manifestation was the HIV panic (which to be fair contributed to the very low rate of infection in the west). Why do you think the UK has a number of specialist schools of tropical medicine? It was more to do with stopping colonial squaddies coming back from forrin with Kububungzababola and giving it to the squire’s daughter.

    Now, back to malaria. Firstly, if it was going to become endemic in the UK because of people bringing it here from the dark continent it would have happened a long time ago. It isn’t going to happen (not saying the occasional transmission won’t happen, but it’s a bloody long time, as in decades, since the last one) for several reasons.

    1) We don’t have the right Anopheles to transmit it efficiently.
    2) We don’t have enough Anopheles in most parts of the country to transmit it efficiently.
    3) It isn’t generally warm enough for the parasite to complete the mozzie life-cycle stage
    4) It isn’t generally warm enough for people to leave their windows open overnight during the summer (which gives you the highest bite risk).
    5) Any outbreak would be instantly pounced on by the highly-developed, well-funded, first-world health service. A good number of the world’s malaria experts are based in the UK.
    6) You could equip everyone in an affected area with antimalarials, bed-nets, etc almost instantaneously.
    7) You could practically eradicate Anopheles in the affected area in days.

    None of the above apply in areas with endemic malaria, which is why they have endemic malaria.

  24. ‘Not surprisingly, some mosquitoes are better adapted to temperate climates than others.’

    Racist!

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “people have been terrified of darkies bringing us dark diseases from the dark continent for ages. Remember ebola? Prior to that its last major manifestation was the HIV panic (which to be fair contributed to the very low rate of infection in the west).”

    I do remember Ebola. Africans are the second largest cause of HIV infection in the UK. It is not unreasonable to be, well, a little more concerned than usual about HIV infection if you are sleeping with an African. The panic is unlikely to have contributed much to the low rate of infection. Married middle class people being boring seems to be the main cause.

    “Why do you think the UK has a number of specialist schools of tropical medicine? It was more to do with stopping colonial squaddies coming back from forrin with Kububungzababola and giving it to the squire’s daughter.”

    So …. it is not unreasonable to be afraid of people coming back from Africa with horrible diseases? Given that we have a large-ish infrastructure set up to prevent it.

    People coming from Africa is a major cause of a whole range of diseases in the UK.

    “5) Any outbreak would be instantly pounced on by the highly-developed, well-funded, first-world health service. A good number of the world’s malaria experts are based in the UK.”

    And this is why developed countries do not have malaria. Why China does not either even though it is poor and it has everything you need for endemic malaria. When people get sick, they go to hospital. In hospitals they are isolated. This means that the cycle of infection is broken – another mosquito does not come and suck the patient’s blood and so gets infected, and hence spreads it to other people.

    Unless Britain suffers a major economic collapse, malaria will never be a problem again. It is a problem in those countries where governments are too chaotic and too incompetent to manage even the basics properly.

  26. Surreptitious Evil

    I’ve got four mozzie resistant cots in the attic if anybody is feeling really paranoid.

    What I don’t have is any Army issue camp beds for use under them.

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