Austin is home to an abundance of insect and arachnid pests that are classified as “medically significant” species by public health officials. Some of these dangerous pests include red-imported fire ants, brown recluse spiders, southern black widow spiders, harvester ants, Africanized honey bees (aka killer bees), and a variety of aggressive wasp species that are well known to establish nests on residential properties. Unfortunately, the deadliest arthropod pest in the world is abundant in Austin where they live in close association with humans. This devastating pest is none other than the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, or the “yellow fever mosquito,” as the bloodsucker is commonly known.
While the yellow fever mosquito is known to transmit the Zika virus, chikungunya virus, dengue viruses, and of course, yellow fever throughout much of the tropics, reservoirs for these diseases are lacking in the US. However, yellow fever mosquitoes do transmit dengue fever to humans in Texas on occasion, and during a ten year period from the beginning of 2003 until the end of 2012, 21 locally transmitted cases of dengue fever were confirmed to have occured in Travis County. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a locally transmitted Zika case was documented in southern Texas, and while no additional locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in Texas since then, experts suspect that this will soon change.
The annual rate of fatalities that result from mosquito-borne infections vary tremendously depending on geographic location. In Austin, and the entire country, the West Nile virus is the most commonly contracted mosquito-borne disease, but malaria is far and away the most commonly contracted mosquito-borne disease in most human-populated areas of the world. Malaria is transmitted to humans by Anopheles mosquito species, plenty of which can be found in the US, including Austin. However, the malaria parasite was successfully eradicated from the US decades ago, so Anopheles species in the country can no longer acquire the malaria parasite.
Do you believe that yellow fever mosquitoes will soon be able to transmit the Zika virus in Austin?