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Killing Killer Mosquitoes

There have been several recent promising innovations in the battle to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases – such as chikungunya, dengue, malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and Zika virus – that together kill millions of people each year. But, however effective these solutions turn out to be, will they ever be widely applied?

SINGAPORE – Mosquitoes may be tiny, but they have a powerful bite. They spread a number of diseases – such as chikungunya, dengue, malaria, yellow fever, West Nile fever, and Zika virus – which together kill millions of people each year. Malaria alone is one of the world’s top infectious killers (behind only tuberculosis and AIDS), responsible for 429,000 deaths in 2015. Given the scale and scope of the problem, stronger action to eliminate mosquitos – and the diseases they carry – is a development imperative.

The World Health Organization ranks mosquitoes among the top threats to public health, especially in developing countries. As a graphic on Bill Gates’ blog last year highlighted, mosquitos are responsible for 830,000 human deaths annually – 250,000 more than are caused by our fellow humans.

Beyond the massive human costs, mosquito-borne diseases carry large economic costs. For an infected individual, those costs include treatment and hospital expenses, transportation to and from a health clinic or hospital, time spent out of work, and insect sprays or bed nets to protect against more disease-spreading mosquito bites.

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