Short Answers to Hard Questions about Health Threats from Hurricane Harvey

What about other diseases spread by mosquitoes, like West Nile?

West Nile virus is endemic in the United States and outbreaks are triggered by several factors, including the concentrations of culex mosquitoes, humans who are not immune, and birds who are not immune. (The virus builds up to higher concentrations in bird blood than in human blood, so mosquitoes tend to pick it up from them to give to humans.) Birds were also probably driven away from coastal Texas by Hurricane Harvey’s winds.

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there was initially no increase in cases of West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis, which is also spread by mosquitoes, noted Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. But a year later, there was a surge in dangerous “neuroinvasive” West Nile disease in the affected…

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