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BC mosquitoes: Scientist wants residents to send them in – Alaska Highway News



For most road-trippers, camping next to a swamp can be hell. 

Swarms of mosquitoes buzz in a shadowy path around your head. They alight on your ears, neck and back. And in the space of a few seconds, their serrated mandibles tear into your skin, opening a path for six-needled mouths to plunge toward their goal — your blood. Then comes the itching.  

But when dusk comes for Dan Peach, he’s the first to offer himself up as bait. 

Last summer, the mosquito researcher spent months hunting for the notorious insect near the province’s bogs, lakes and rivers. On mountain tops, he caught furry mosquitoes; in coastal estuaries, he stalked tide pool dwellers, which can survive and reproduce in water triple the salt content of the ocean.

In one recent trip to Whistler, Peach said he ducked under bridges “like a troll” looking for hiding mosquitoes.

It’s all part of an ambitious mapping project that aims to uncover the range of the 51 mosquito species already known to exist B.C.

From there, Peach will use the maps, combined with projected shifts in temperature and rainfall, to model how mosquitoes and the diseases they carry could spread on the back of a changing climate. 

“We think these things have already been heading further north,” said Peach. “As climate changes and some of these conditions shift, where will they be in the future?” 

But first, you need to catch them. 

In his lab, Dan Peach shows part of his mosquito collection gathered across British Columbia. STEFAN LABBÉ/GLACIER MEDIA

In his lab at the University of British Columbia, Peach pulls out an aspirator, what looks like an oversized turkey baster — only, instead of a bulb to suck in gravy drippings, he places the device to his lips and with a sharp inhalation, vacuums a mosquito into a filter inside.

Other mosquito-hunting devices are even less high-tech. To catch mosquito larvae he uses “a cup on a stick.”

“If they’re floating in the water swimming around and they see a shadow or something, they’ll dive down and hide,” he said. “So you get this cup on a stick and kind of lean in, like sneak up on them.”

At other times, the researcher will deploy a trap that looks like a foldable laundry basket with a lid and opening at the top. Black and white colouring attracts the insects, but so too does German-made synthetic sweat. 

Peach opens a cooler door to pull out a half-opened package filled with a handful of chemicals, each a key ingredient in reproducing “stinky person smell.”

“It just kind of smells like gym socks,” he says holding it up to this reporter’s nose.

In the field, German artificial sweat gets dropped in the trap with carbon dioxide, an irresistible mix as artificially human as Peach can achieve. 

But there are limits to what a single scientist — no matter how motivated — can do. In many small B.C. towns, you can’t find carbon dioxide. And no matter how much Peach travels across the region, he can’t be everywhere at once. 

Instead, Peach is hoping an army of citizen scientists will take up open palms to help him gauge the province’s ever-shifting mosquito population — one slap at a time.

“We’re calling it the ‘Ow! What just bit me?’ project,” said Peach, adding he also welcomes samples from Yukon. “Basically this summer, if you smack the mosquito, put it in an envelope and mail it to us.”

Add the date as well, plus the latitude and longitude of where it was killed (you can look that up on an application like Google Maps), he says. Once the lab receives the sample, they will grind it up and genetically sequence the remains to confirm the species. In return, Peach said he’ll email back information about what species of mosquito was slapped. 

More than a window into what bit you, a slap and a trip to the post office offer residents of B.C. and Yukon a hand in heading off future crises.

An unfathomable trail of bodies 

It’s hard to understate the risk mosquitoes pose to human health. By acting as a vector for everything from yellow and dengue fevers to malaria and Japanese encephalitis, the mosquito has killed humans at an almost unfathomable scale.

“Mosquitoes are the world’s deadliest animal,” said Peach.

Several researchers, including Peach, suspect malaria alone has killed half the people that have ever existed. Or as Bill Gates put it in 2014, mosquitoes kill more people than people.

(At the time, mosquito-borne illnesses killed an estimated 725,000 people per year compared to 425,000 people who died at the hands of other humans.)

Since then, Gates and others have poured vast sums of money into malaria control programs, reducing mortality from the virus by 36 per cent between 2010 and 2020. But by the end of the decade, an estimated 627,000 died still died from the disease. And at least 240 million more people are known to have suffered from the disease that year.

As one influential book on the deadly trail left by the insects put it, “The mosquito remains the destroyer of worlds and the preeminent and globally distinguished killer of humankind.”

“Mosquitoes had this very profound influence on humans,” said Peach. “And since humanity has been a thing, basically, and they continue to do so today.” 

“So there’s a very real risk here. And sort of because of that, we focus on that area, and we don’t really pay as much attention to the other things that mosquitoes do in an ecosystem.”

A dangerous vector heads north

Today, someone from Eastern Canada could be forgiven for thinking B.C.’s Lower Mainland has always been a mosquito-free haven.

“Sixty years ago, before they diked along the Fraser [River] and drained Sumas Lake, the Lower Mainland was considered worse than the Prairies by settlers who had come through,” said Peach.

As recently as the 1960s, the province suffered under outbreaks of mosquito-borne Western Equine encephalitis, and a century ago, the Interior had instances of malaria. 

“What’s here now hasn’t always been the case, and may not always be the case in the future. We need to kind of keep an eye on it,” said Peach.

One recent study, for example, found the Aedes aegypti mosquito could spread into some parts of British Columbia under several global warming emissions scenarios. The mosquito species is vector for a number of pathogens dangerous to humans, including chikungunya, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, zika, West Nile and yellow fever viruses.

Aedes aegypti engorged
Aedes aegypti, a species known to spread a number of diseases dangerous to humans, is expected to expand its range into some parts of British Columbia due to climate change. – Dan Peach

Across the planet, there are more than 3,500 mosquito species. About 80 of those are found in Canada. But it’s not clear how the tiny creatures are moving. 

Of the more than 50 mosquito species in B.C., a handful are known to be invasive — including the Northern House Mosquito (Culex pipiens), which carries the West Nile virus, and the Japanese rock pool mosquito (Aedes japonicus), a species which has been in the province for about a decade.

Often a forest-dwelling day-biter, the rock pool mosquito is known to carry a number of diseases, including the West Nile virus and two forms of encephalitis — infections of the brain that starts with swelling and headaches and can lead to vomiting, seizures, and in some cases, death. 

But while B.C. is home to a number of mosquitoes known to spread disease, its climate is not yet ideal to allow some of the mosquito-borne vectors to follow. 

That could change in the coming years, as warmer summers and wetter winters expand the range of many species northward, even across oceans.

“In the last a few years, we’ve been seeing some of the West Nile vectors in places farther north than they were before,” Peach said. 

He points to Culex pipiens, which lately has turned up in Prince George.

“It was never thought to go that far north,” he said, noting the odd case in the southern Interior or Lower Mainland.

And while it’s likely too cold up there for West Nile to spread in the wild, there’s a risk an infected person could bring the virus with them in a bird-human-bird spreading event transmitted through the bites of the invasive Culex pipiens.

Mosquitoes are only one-half of the picture.

“Climate is definitely limiting the spread of these pathogens,” said Peach. “You need it to be warm enough for long enough for them to spread.”

“There might be areas when there’s nothing to worry about now, but perhaps, you know, 40 to 50 years in the future, we need to be concerned about pathogens like West Nile.”

A killer’s unsung role in sustaining life

Not all mosquitoes are pathogen-laden killing machines.

In fact, only female mosquito species take blood, and then only to develop their eggs. Many species don’t even target humans and only some carry pathogens that are dangerous to our health. 

Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people. Adult mosquitoes feed on plant sugar, bouncing from flower to flower like a bee, in a process that appears to have been playing out since at least the mid-Cretaceous period, over 100 million years ago.

In an odd adaptation, mosquitoes take advantage of ants and their habit of farming aphids to collect honeydew.

As Peach put it in a recent article: “When a mosquito inserts its mouthparts into an ant’s mouth and strokes the ant’s head with its antennae, it tricks the ant into regurgitating and sharing its honeydew.”

They also act as a massive food source, a link driving the transfer of energy from aquatic environments — where their larva filter microbes, alga and dead leaves out of the water — to insect tissue, a key food source for fish, bats, birds, frogs, spiders, and predatory insects like dragonflies and beetles.

Those mosquitoes that don’t get eaten, often fall to the ground, where their biomass enriches the soil. An individual mosquito won’t add much, but in Canada and Russia’s north, huge swarms have led some researchers to estimate half of all migratory birds would stop nesting if mosquitoes disappeared.

In Alaska alone, the biomass of mosquitoes has been calculated at over 43,500 tonnes — equivalent to 17 trillion mosquitoes.

In the Canadian Arctic, Peach says one researcher estimated how many bites he got on his arm in 10 minutes. Extrapolating out, he estimated standing naked among the Arctic mosquito swarm could leave a human dead from blood loss within two hours.

Closer to home, Peach says you’ll find huge swarms on British Columbia’s mountain slopes after a snow melt, or in valley bottoms after a flood. 

“Nobody can agree on [the numbers],” said Peach. “But it’s thought there are definitely more mosquitoes than there are stars in the sky.” 

However much you hate mosquitoes, the science is clear, says Peach. Humanity must find a way to strike a balance — target and control those that spread disease, but don’t kill what for many of the world’s animal and plant species forms a foundation for life. 

Anyone in British Columbia or Yukon interested in taking part in the citizen science ‘Ow! What just bit me?’ project is asked to:

  • Record the date you squished the mosquito;
  • Record the location using longitude and latitude (you can find this on apps like Google Maps on your phone or computer);
  • Include an email address if they want a response about what species they found;
  • Mail the information and mosquito to Dr. Dan Peach at:

Ben Matthews Lab
UBC Department of Zoology
4200-6270 University Blvd.
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1Z4

Stefan Labbé is a solutions journalist covering how people are responding to problems linked to climate change. Have a story idea? Get in touch. Email

Video report by Alanna Kelly

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Kingston, Ont., area health officials examining future of local vaccination efforts – Global News



More than 455,000 people in the Kingston region have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now health officials say they’re using the summer months, with low infection rates, to look ahead to what fall might bring, urging those who are still eligible to get vaccinated do so.

Read more:

Kingston Health Sciences Centre to decommission COVID-19 field site

“Large, mass immunization clinics, mobile clinics, drive-thru clinics and small primary care clinics doing their own vaccine,” said Brian Larkin with KFL&A Public Health.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans says those who are still eligible for a third and fourth dose should take advantage and roll up their sleeves during the low-infection summer months.

“Now in 2022, although you still might get COVID, you’re probably not going to be very sick. You are less likely to transmit and ultimately that’s one of the ways we’re going to control the pandemic,” added Evans.

He expects another wave of COVID-19 to hit in late October to early November and that a booster may be made available for those younger than 60 who still aren’t eligible for a fourth dose.

Read more:

Kingston, Ont. COVID assessment centre cuts hours for the summer

“The best case scenario is a few more years of watching rises in cases, getting boosters to control things and ultimately getting out of it with this being just another coronavirus that just tends to cause a respiratory infection and worst-case scenario is a new variant where all the potential possibilities exist to have a big surge in cases and hopefully not a lot more serious illness,” said Evans.

Public Health says they’re still waiting for direction from the province on what’s to come this fall.

“We’re expecting that we would see more age groups and younger age groups be eligible for more doses or boosters but about when those ages start, we have yet to have that confirmed,” said Larkin.

The last 18 months of vaccines paving the way for the new normal could mean a yearly COVID booster alongside the annual flu shot.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Monkeypox detected in Norfolk County | – Hamilton Spectator



The monkeypox virus has found its way to Norfolk County.

The health unit announced on Friday that a Norfolk resident has tested positive and is currently isolating at home.

Contacts of the infected resident have been notified, according to a media release from the health unit.

“There is no increased risk of monkeypox to the general public stemming from this case,” acting medical officer of health Dr. Matt Strauss said in the release.

“Outside of an emergency situation, if you have symptoms of monkeypox, it is important to stay home and call your doctor to be assessed. When seeking medical care, you should wear a high-quality medical mask and cover up all lesions and open sores.”

Monkeypox is spread by direct physical contact, most often by touching a rash on an infected person’s skin but sometimes through “respiratory secretions” if in close proximity for a prolonged period, the health unit said.

“Most people infected with monkeypox will have mild symptoms and recover on their own without treatment,” said the release.

Symptoms lasting between two and four weeks can include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, low energy, muscle aches, skin rash or lesions, sometimes starting on the face or genitals and spreading elsewhere.

The health unit says symptoms usually start between six and 13 days of exposure to the virus.

The Halton region recorded its first confirmed case of monkeypox earlier this month.

Close contacts of monkeypox patients are eligible to receive the smallpox vaccine, which also provides protection against monkeypox.

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Mass vaccination campaign against Monkeypox needed, experts say – Global News



As the World Health Organization calculates whether to declare monkeypox a global health emergency, infectious disease experts are urging health officials to be more proactive and start ramping up vaccinations and surveillance — especially in African nations where the virus is most prevalent.

The WHO convened its emergency committee Thursday to consider whether the spiralling outbreak of monkeypox should be declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” the WHO’s highest level of alert.

But the United Nations agency is facing criticism over its treatment of monkeypox — jumping into action only after the disease started to spread in rich western nations.

Read more:

WHO to discuss declaring monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency

The viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions is endemic in parts of Africa, which means it is consistently present in certain regions. The continent has registered just over 1,500 suspected cases since the start of 2022, of which 70 have been fatal, according to the WHO.

By comparison, Canada has confirmed over 200 cases, the majority of which are in Quebec, and has had no deaths.

“There are more cases that occur in Africa on a yearly basis than have already been reported outside of Africa right now. And there are more deaths that have occurred in Africa from monkeypox than have occurred in the rest of the world,” said Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious disease physician and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University.

Read more:

Monkeypox in Canada: 211 confirmed cases reported across the country

That’s why he believes Africa should be getting the lion’s share of resources to deal with monkeypox — and that should include mass vaccinations, he says.

“I think Africa needs to be looked at with high, high priority,” he said.

“It needs to be a mass vaccination campaign for monkeypox with the newer vaccines for people in the African continent, especially in the high endemic areas.”

He’s not alone.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, a physician and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, says she also believes more people living in regions where monkeypox is more prevalent should be vaccinated.

“That will actually stop it in endemic regions in this non-endemic outbreak.”

That the WHO is only now taking monkeypox seriously is “profoundly problematic,” Gandhi says, given that the disease has been spreading and killing people in Central and West Africa for years.

Click to play video: 'Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll'

Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll

Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll – Jun 17, 2022

“It’s been circulating since 1958. There are increasing outbreaks — a severe one in Nigeria, for example in 2017 — and it’s only really essentially when this has affected high-income countries that the WHO is jumping on it.”

Experts who have worked on monkeypox in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have long taken note of rising cases while population immunity to pox viruses has been decreasing, due to lack of vaccination. This is why the world shouldn’t be surprised at the current outbreaks, said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California, who has studied monkeypox for two decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how quickly a deadly virus can spread across the globe when the right conditions are present, so health officials ought to learn from this and start being more proactive, she said.

“When it comes to infectious diseases, in particular those viruses that have the potential for global spread, it’s much easier to stay out of trouble than it is to have to get out of trouble.”

In addition to providing vaccines, health officials should also be ramping up resources to study this disease and do more surveillance to get a better understanding of monkeypox and learn why it is spreading in new and unusual ways, Rimoin said.

Read more:

Monkeypox outbreak: Case count rises to more than 3,200 globally, says WHO

“We’ve given this virus a lot of runway to be able to spread. We have not been looking for it as vigilantly as we should be,” she said.

“I think we have to learn the lessons that we’ve learned with COVID-19 and that it is much better to invest ahead of time to get in front of these viruses, to do the kind of surveillance it’s necessary to be regularly updating our knowledge about viruses.”

Good disease surveillance is just as important in poorer countries as it is in “high-resource settings,” she added.

Like many countries around the world, Canada and the United States stopped vaccinating the general population against smallpox by around 1972, which means many on this continent are highly susceptible to pox viruses like monkeypox.

Given that scientists expect to see more emerging infectious diseases due to factors such as climate change, deforestation and globalization, the world should start getting better prepared for new outbreaks, Elsayed said.

Read more:

Monkeypox has Canadian researchers scrambling. Why, and how contagious is it?

This is why, in addition to calling for vaccinations and more resources to fight monkeypox in Africa, Elsayed believes governments in developed nations should also consider more options to protect citizens from pox viruses, including possibly re-introducing mass smallpox vaccinations.

“I believe that these vaccines should come on board again for the general population … but not (just) for monkeypox, but also to protect the world against perhaps a smallpox pandemic that can happen in the future, or even another virus that’s closely related to monkeypox but hasn’t reached humans,” Elsayed said.

He stressed this should only be considered after addressing the more pressing needs in Africa first.

Click to play video: 'WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen'

WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen

WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen – Jun 15, 2022

Rimoin noted that when the world stopped vaccinating against smallpox, it opened a “gap of immunity” for populations to once again be vulnerable to it. And with the emergence of a number of new pox viruses in different parts of the globe, including mousepox, cowpox and camelpox, the world is not immune to new outbreaks, she said.

“We now have to really think about, How important is it for us to be able to keep pox viruses out of the population?” she said. “What are the stakes of allowing this virus to spread? And then acting accordingly.”

-With files from Global News reporter Reggie Checcini and Reuters.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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