If the most efficient dengue fever carrier, a mosquito called Aedes aegypti, establishes itself in California, it won’t be because the state didn’t put up a fight. Since the mosquito was first spotted on June 9th of this year in Madera County, CA, pest-control teams have been working overtime to kill its young, trap its adults, and eliminate its egg-laying locations.
But officials charged with eradicating the mosquito say they’re losing the war. “We would like to eliminate the mosquito,” says Steve Mulligan, a manager with the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, “but at this point all we’re doing is trying to control its spread.” Tim Phillips, Mulligan’s counterpart at the Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District, agrees. “Outside of the weather maybe helping us, I don’t know if eradicating the mosquito will be possible.”
In just under six months, the invasive bug has spread to at least four counties and continues to widen its foothold in central California. But what most Americans don’t know is that the dengue virus was once common in the US — and could be again.
“There was dengue all the way up to Philadelphia, as early as 1780,” says Crystal Franco, a researcher specializing in disease risk assessment at the University of Pittsburgh. The mosquitoes that carried dengue and malaria were largely eradicated during World War II thanks to efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO).
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