Researchers from Simon Fraser University are studying a new disease carrying mosquito that they say has landed in B.C. and could pose serious health risks.
Known as Aedes japonicus, this is the first time the mosquitos that are native to Asia have been found in Western Canada. They were found as early as February of this year in Maple Ridge.
The mosquitos could carry the following diseases:
- La Crosse encephalitis
- West Nile virus
- Japanese encephalitis
- St. Louis encephalitis
Encephalitis, the most prevalent disease on the list, is an inflammation of the brain with symptoms that include headache, fever, confusion, drowsiness, fatigue, convulsions, seizures, tremors, hallucinations, stroke and memory problems.
Retired SFU biology professor and study co-author Peter Belton says global warming could play a role in favouring the development of the diseases the mosquitos carry, posing a “significant hazard to health” to people in B.C.
These particular mosquitos were first found in North America back in 1998 in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, according to the research paper published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. They’ve since been found in 30 other states, Eastern Canada and now Western Canada.
“The ability of this species to survive and spread rapidly is well documented by its history in Europe, whereAe. japonicus was found in France in 2000, reported from sites in seven other countries, and established in six of them by 2014,” reads the study.
Belton and the other authors of the study are recommending that the population of these mosquitos be closely monitored in order to gather more information on their methods of dispersal. Genetic research is currently being conducted on them.