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Insect Control, Rodent Control, and Pesticides


Insects and rodents are one of the primary means of spreading disease throughout the world. Typically, a microorganism causing a specific disease lives in a wild animal, bird, or human being. This is called a reservoir of infection. A vector (an insect or rodent) then transmits the disease from the reservoir of infection to a new animal, bird, or human being, called the host. Yellow fever, a mosquito-borne disease, evolved in Africa about 3000 years ago. Malaria, a mosquito- borne disease, was described in ancient Chinese medical writings in 2700 BC. It was responsible for the destruction of many of the city states. It was known about 2000 years ago in Roman times and in fact was called Roman fever. Bubonic plague, involving Norway rats and fleas, was first traced to Asia in the 1330s and 1340s. It spread to Sicily and the rest of Europe over a period of time. Bubonic plague, also called the Black Death, was the most devastating pandemic in history. It resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75-200 million people and had its peak years from 1346 to 1353. (See endnote 4.)

Each of the diseases mentioned was devastating to the populations at the time and later in various parts of the world. However, this was not the end of worldwide epidemics. The most recent concern is the Zika virus which is transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes. Although the symptoms for those individuals who become ill are usually mild, there is a serious concern of newborns, who have had the virus transmitted to them from the mother, having microcephaly, which is a serious birth defect causing the baby’s head to be smaller than expected. This is creating great fear in areas where the disease is prevalent. (See endnote 31.)

Insects and other arthropods of public health significance include bedbugs, fleas, flies, food product insects, lice, mites, mosquitoes, roaches, and ticks.

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