Mosquitoes: Earth’s most efficient killer under the lens

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A report by Vuyo Mikize for IOL.

All it takes, is one mosquito. Arguably the most dangerous animal species in the world – highly efficient as a vector of disease, mosquitoes are estimated to be the cause of death for every second person who ever lived.

This according to a new Discovery impact film, Mosquito, which was pre-screened for media this week.

Zika, dengue, yellow fever, malaria, West Nile virus and Chikungunya have all spread across the globe from a single outbreak – some even to places they have never traditionally been found.

The film, to be shown on Thursday, tells of a bigger story, one that connects the dots between these diseases and reveals how a single force is driving them all: the unceasing accelerating expansion of the mosquito around the globe. This is driven by factors such as increasing global travel and trade, and a warmer world that is more hospitable to mosquitoes though climate change.

The first reported case of Zika in Puerto Rico was in December 2015 – a year later more than 40000 people carried the disease.

Malaria alone, according to experts interviewed for the film, kills one child every two minutes, with dengue being the “fastest growing” mosquito illness in the world.

In 2015, mosquitoes killed an estimated 536000 people, making them around 180-times more deadly than sharks, crocodiles and lions combined

“Mosquito sounds a global alarm about the need for bold steps to address this increasingly urgent threat,” said David Zaslav, president of Discovery Communications.Shot on four continents, the film weaves together interviews with men, women, and children who are living in fear that the next bite could be a fatal one.

The first human cases of Zika migrated out of Africa and into Malaysia in 1967. Forty years later, Zika had its first outbreak in Micronesia, causing the disease’s spread through the Pacific Islands to Brazil in 2014.

The film profiles a father and son from a remote village in Kenya. The father, wondering why even with their malaria nets they both have contracted the disease, carries his son on his back to a hospital while neglecting his own care.

The film also highlights Leslie Meiners, a mother from Queens, New York, who contracted West Nile virus in her neighbourhood.

Most devastating is the story of a young mother from Brazil, Ane Júliana Araújo, who is caring for a baby born with Zika while fearing the disease may affect her unborn child.

The film includes interviews with mosquito experts, including malariologist Bart Knols.

It also features Bill Gates, co-chairperson of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who points out that the resources required to fight an outbreak relative to the level of death that could result from a fatal pandemic makes this a global health priority.

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