As the globe warms, mosquitoes will roam beyond their current habitats, shifting the burden of diseases like malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya and West Nile virus. Researchers forecast different scenarios depending on the extent of climate change.

By Rob Jordan
Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Just as snowbirds flock to warmer climes when winter settles in, wild creatures seek out weather that suits them. But a changing climate is moving that comfort zone for many animals, including disease-carrying mosquitoes that kill about 1 million people a year.

Stanford biologist Erin Mordecai and her colleagues have made startling forecasts of how climate change will alter where mosquito species are most comfortable and how quickly they spread disease, shifting the burden of disease around the world. A major takeaway: wealthy, developed countries such as the United States are not immune.

“It’s coming for you,” Mordecai said. “If the climate is becoming more optimal for transmission, it’s going to become harder and harder to do mosquito control.”

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