Dr. Paul Leisnham, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, has spent only two years in Maryland, but has already learned the serious public health threats that the Asian Tiger Mosquito brings to this region. To fight against this invader, Dr. Leisnham has developed a collaborative mosquito control strategy between mosquito professionals and Marylanders in urban neighborhoods of Washington DC and Baltimore City.
40 COUNTRIES IN 30 YEARS
The Asian Tiger Mosquito is an imported pest and serious public health threat in the northeastern and greater eastern United States. Native to the East Asian region, “this species was first introduced to America into Texas in the 80s, through the import of used tires from Japan,” explains Dr. Leisnham. Today, the Asian Tiger Mosquito can be found in more than 30 U.S. states and 40 countries. It is thought to be one of the fastest spreading animal species worldwide. “The mosquito has even been nominated among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders,” says Dr. Leisnham. “At least 11 viruses have been isolated from specimens in the field including Dengue, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, Japanese Encephalitis virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, and LaCrosse virus.”
WHY WASHINGTON DC AND BALTIMORE?
The Baltimore-DC region is at a higher risk of imported cases of exotic diseases since it is an important hub for global travel and trading. “Both cities also have high rates of HIV infection in comparison with national averages, including those living with AIDS, often exhibiting greater vulnerability to vector-borne pathogens than non-infected individuals,” says Dr. Leisnham. Moreover, current abatement methods for the Asian Tiger do not work. This is explained by the fact that the species grow in a vast array of small discrete water-collecting containers that lie across a patchwork of limited-access private land, and thus renders them too numerous to visit. Community-based involvement is vital to reduce these containers. Dr. Leisnham is thus leading a citizen science program to resolve this issue through print and web-based educational material. Researchers from Universities are teaming up with public health agencies and foundations to develop and evaluate different education strategies, among diverse socioeconomic status and cultural groups.
Preliminary analyses of collections from residential backyards in 2010 indicate that households with at least a college degree have less water-holding containers and mosquitoes than households with no college degree. Further analyses will uncover if this trend holds for specific mosquito species and examine relationships between public knowledge, attitudes and practices to inform intervention strategies.