Researchers working with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study — a partnership of government agencies, private institutions, and universities, such as the University of Maryland — spent the last three years going door-to-door in five West Baltimore neighborhoods studying the prevalence of mosquitoes.
According to The Baltimore Sun, their findings revealed that not only do there tend to be more mosquitoes in poorer neighborhoods, but the reason for such is a direct result of the trash and garbage that typically accumulates in them.
“Over an entire season we get about three times more blood-seeking adult mosquitoes in low-income neighborhoods,” said Shannon L. LaDeau, an associate scientist of disease ecology at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, which is the group that leads the BES.
According to LaDeau, the “discarded container habitats” that populate poorer neighborhoods lead to pools of water that harbor mosquito larvae. Mosquito larvae only require a small amount of stagnant, or standing, water to survive and eventually hatch into the flying pests.
In order to conduct the study the researchers enlisted the help of graduate students to scour poor, affluent, and socioeconomically diverse areas of Baltimore to collect water samples from alleyways, garbage cans, and anywhere else the insects might lay their eggs.
“It’s been a heart-breaking experience to go and see some parts of the city where people have to live,” said John-Henry Pitas, a graduate student at the University of Maryland. “The mosquitoes are just one of so many other things these people, largely through no fault of their own, are exposed to.”
Though most people tend to think of mosquitoes as pests rather than potential health risks, the recent Zika scare has infused more interest and is an important reminder of the safety risks they can have.
Despite the fact that efforts to fight malaria in Africa have reduced the rate of infection by about 50% since 2000, mosquitoes remain one of the world’s deadliest creatures because of the number of deaths still linked to it.
Malaria is, of course, not an issue in the U.S., but as more and more people are bringing the Zika virus back with them it raises serious concerns of what could happen if the disease is found naturally here.
For their part, the research group plans to award multiple grants for upwards of $1,500 to communities that come up with ways to help solve their mosquito problem.