Weather plays an important role in mosquito activities, which lead to mosquito-borne diseases caused by viruses transmitted by mosquitos. Mosquito weather is naturally found in Taiwan and some mosquito-borne illnesses once swept this island. We should look back these outbreaks and think how we can make a difference.
- Chikungunya fever→transmitted through Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus→Currently no specific antiviral drug treatment for it, but National Defense Medical Center has found new leads for drug repurposing (passed animal testing and patent approved)
- Japanese encephalitis→transmitted through Culex tritaeniorhynchus and Cx. annulus→Receiving Japanese encephalitis vaccine.
- Dengue fever→transmitted through Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus→There is no specific medication nor vaccine available for treatment of a dengue infection in Taiwan. Vaccine research for elderly is currently launched by the joint force of the teams in Taiwan and the US.
- Malaria→transmitted through Anopheles minimus and Anopheles sinensis→Malaria vaccine is currently under development.
- Imported cases through the bite of an infected mosquito: Zika virus infection, Rift valley fever, Yellow fever and West nile fever→ There is either no specific treatment or the treatment is aimed at reducing the symptoms for the comfort of the patient. As for yellow fever, there is a preventive vaccination against it.
Mosquito control programs start with mosquito study. According to Mosquito Man, Dr. Lien Jih-Ching, mosquitos are a group of more than 3000 species, which belongs to order Diptera constituting the family Culicidae. There are about 140 species in Taiwan, while blood feeding ones are no more than 20. Dr Lien had once worked in U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 2, also called NAMRU-2, and was mentored and promoted by a Japanese scholar, Omori Nanzaburo, from a typist to a researcher. According to Dr. Liao, Chun-Hsing from Infectious Diseases Medicine in Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, NAMRU-2 focused its study on diseases in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. During the 24-year (1955-1979) establishment in Taiwan, NAMRU-2 not only devoted its studies on tropical medicine, but also developed our talents in infectious diseases, immunology and basic medical sciences.
After post-war, Dr. Lien had been taken his full time efforts in combating malaria and witnessed Taiwan receiving the very first certification of malaria elimination granted by WHO in 1965. He received seminar invitations from China, Japan, Thailand, Bolivia, Brazil, England and Mexico. He had also been to Philippine and Indonesia to study malaria and parasites. At the invitation of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he had conducted an investigation in Bolivia’s malaria outbreak and launched training sessions on malaria insects in Indonesia. The development of Taiwan’s talents in epidemic prevention is not only meant for academic concept proves, but improving our mosquito control through practices.
According to Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, mosquitos are temperature sensitivity. Every one degree increase will lead to ten-fold increase of mosquitos. Therefore, while the globe keeps warmer, the risk of mosquito-borne diseases outbreak becomes greater. As mosquitos become resistant to the spraying insecticides, recently we decided to start with the root causes to effectively reduce mosquito-borne illnesses acquiring. Every year, Taiwan government conducts advocacy activities in schools and communities, encouraging people to use screens on doors and windows, set up mosquito net before sleep and remove any water containers. Besides, we suggest people wear long sleeve shirts and pants, avoid perfumes and use repellents. If bite by mosquitos or insects, and if you found yourself with symptoms of high fever, muscle or joint pain and rash, please go to the doctors immediately.