Environmental Management of Vector-borne Diseases

Science Center Objects

Effective management programs for vector-borne pathogens, such as West Nile Virus and the Lyme disease spirochete, are necessary to protect public health.  However, some vector control methods, such as landscape manipulations and pesticide applications, can also adversely affect nontarget species and environmentally sensitive natural systems.  Efficient targeting and integration of vector control methods allows cost efficient disease prevention, while minimizing adverse environmental effects from broad scale, poorly targeted interventions.  The purpose of this project is to develop well targeted, efficiently integrated, and environmentally benign approaches to management of vector-borne pathogens.  The project includes theoretical advances as well as application to actual vector-borne disease management programs.  We are also studying the influences of environmental conditions on pathogen transmission patterns that lead to outbreaks of vector-borne diseases such as Dengue fever and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. This research will help improve outbreak prediction and management of these diseases.

The Challenge: Vector-borne pathogens present increasing challenges to public health in North America.  Many new control technologies have been and are being developed, but relatively little attention has been paid to developing methods of decision-making in management programs that can protect public health while minimizing any adverse effects on natural environments.  Efficient management programs can apply available resources so as to minimize the number of human cases, while minimizing negative environmental effects by careful targeting and integrating management methods.

The Science: We are developing accurate measures of risk of human exposure to vector-borne pathogens, and exploring implications for efficient integration of control methods.  A team of scientists and practitioners with broad expertise has assessed possible effects of vector control methods on nontarget organisms (such as pollinators).  Methods to efficiently target and integrate management interventions are being developed and applied to an actual vector control program that involves a national park site and nearby communities.

The Future: Theoretical advances in targeting and intervention of vector management methods are being applied to mosquito and West Nile Virus management at Fire Island National Seashore, associated communities on Fire Island, and nearby sites in Suffolk County, NY.  The purpose is to develop vector management programs that protect public health, while also avoiding damage to natural communities.