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Mosquitoes — and diseases like Zika — flourish when economies tank

mcn Mosquitoes — and diseases like Zika — flourish when economies tank

Is there a link between a bad economy and the proliferation of infectious disease? Of course, we all recognize that governments reel back public health spending during economic slumps -- but is there another factor during bad times that challenges the public health landscape? In a new opinion piece published by STATNews, MCN’s Amy Liebman, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, argues that there is: human behavior.

“Serious public health challenges often flourish in struggling economies because the habits and movements of people change. Yet health authorities rarely treat migration as a marker of public health concern.”

Liebman uses Puerto Rico’s out-migration, Venezuela’s wildcat goldminers, and Florida’s empty swimming pools to illustrate how changes in human movement and behavior can drive up mosquito populations, aiding an increase in infectious diseases like Zika and malaria. She writes:

“It’s hard to predict the pattern of transmission for infectious diseases. But we do know the conditions that help them spread. Economic downturns consistently signal changes in human activity and patterns — the abandonment of construction sites when the market slows down, an increase in homeless encampments near mosquito breeding sites, increases in migration, and more. These, in turn, can affect the transmission of infectious diseases not only because of cuts in public health funding but because of changing economic conditions which affect on-the-ground transmission of diseases.”

She concludes that public health authorities need steady funding and a more expansive outlook, to improve our responses to public health threats -- especially in a downturned economy.

Read the full op-ed here, on STATNews!

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