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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 5:20 EDT

‘Airport Malaria’ Can Become a Threat

November 12, 2008

Air travel, international trade and globalized food production are helping “airport malaria” and other diseases spread to the United States, researchers say.

Dr. James H. Diaz of Louisiana State University said airport malaria is transmitted when a mosquito infected with the disease bites a human within the vicinity of an international airport. Climate changes in some U.S. cities with a large presence of international air traffic, such as New York and Los Angeles, seem to have created a more welcoming environment where these infected mosquitoes can survive, Diaz said.

A mosquito is transported during an international flight from a malaria-endemic region and once the infected female mosquito leaves the aircraft, she can survive long enough to seek blood meals and transmit the disease to other humans within the airport.

This type of international transmission creates an increased possibility for the reintroduction of not just malaria, but other diseases such as dengue and Chikungunya fever, into areas where they are not normally found.

Warm, dry summers followed by heavy rain causes mosquitoes to rush breeding and seek out more blood meals, while warmer winter seasons allow mosquitoes and their eggs to not be killed by a harsh winter freeze, Diaz explained.

The findings are to be presented at the American Society Of Tropical Medicine And Hygiene annual meeting Dec. 7-11 in New Orleans.