The hidden environmental factors behind the spread of Zika and other deadly diseases

February 3, 2016 12:33 PM

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The hidden environmental factors behind the spread of Zika and other deadly diseases

The alarming spread of the Zika virus — caused in major part by the infamous Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can also carry dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya virus — is looking more and more like a public health catastrophe. But it’s also, say experts, something else: The latest example of how human alterations to their environments, in the broadest sense, can empower disease-carrying insects like Aedes and the viruses they bring with them.

That mosquito, in particular, thrives in “artificially human-made habitats,” says Durland Fish, a professor of microbial diseases and also forestry and environmental studies at Yale University. “Tires and cans and plastic containers and rain barrels, and things like that.”

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