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Public Collaboration Urged to Track Tiger Mosquito and Prevent Disease Spread in Sweden

Public Collaboration Urged to Track Tiger Mosquito and Prevent Disease Spread in Sweden
The relentless northward expansion of the Asian tiger mosquito, a carrier of tropical diseases, poses a growing threat to Europe. In response, researchers in Sweden are actively developing a Swedish version of the Mosquito Alert app, calling on the public to join forces in the hunt for this invasive mosquito species within the country.

Leading mosquito researcher, Jenny Hesson, warns that the tiger mosquito's arrival in Sweden is not a matter of "if," but "when." Originally from Southeast Asia, the tiger mosquito has rapidly spread across the globe due to human activities, earning it the notorious status of being one of the world's most invasive species, according to the SLU Artdatabanken.

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Several European countries have already adopted the Mosquito Alert app as a means to monitor the tiger mosquito's progress. Each year, hundreds of sightings are reported via the app, predominantly in southern Europe. However, cases have also been documented in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

In Sweden, the Zoonosis Science Center at Uppsala University and Biologisk Myggkontroll, a group dedicated to combating flood mosquitoes in Lower Dalälven, are spearheading the initiative to develop a Swedish version of the app. The objective is to track the arrival of the tiger mosquito and enhance preparedness.

"The app serves as an invaluable tool to stay ahead of the tiger mosquito's potential impact. It is crucial that we know when it will arrive," emphasizes Jenny Hesson, mosquito researcher at Uppsala University.

The tiger mosquito has the capability to transmit diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and zika fever. Notably, the Zika virus caused a significant epidemic in South America and southernmost North America between 2015 and 2016, leading to birth defects in infants born to infected mothers.

However, it is important to note that the presence of the tiger mosquito in new areas does not automatically mean the transmission of diseases. The viruses themselves need to adapt to the local climate in order to establish a foothold. Nevertheless, cases of Ockelbos disease, caused by a tropical virus transmitted by mosquitoes already present in Sweden, highlight the potential for disease transmission within the country. Ockelbos disease can result in fever and joint pain, with long-term joint pain affecting around a fifth of individuals experiencing symptoms.

Unfortunately, public awareness of mosquito-borne diseases in Sweden is alarmingly low. As the climate continues to warm, the risk of new mosquito-borne viruses establishing themselves in the country rises significantly. This raises concerns for Jenny Hesson, who points out that "many doctors are unaware of Ockelbosjukan, and if we lack awareness of an existing disease, it's safe to assume that knowledge of new variants is even scarcer."

As the risk of mosquito-borne diseases grows, Hesson predicts a shift in public behavior. Presently, few individuals in Sweden are concerned about diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, with most people primarily worried about the annoyance caused by the insects. In contrast, other parts of the world prioritize the diseases that mosquitoes carry.

While the exact timing of the tiger mosquito's arrival in Sweden remains uncertain, Jenny Hesson asserts that it is only a matter of time. She encourages the public to actively contribute by photographing mosquitoes and uploading their findings through the app. This collaboration is especially crucial in southern Sweden, where the first appearance of the tiger mosquito is expected.

The Mosquito Alert app is currently available in English, but researchers are determined to launch a Swedish version as soon as possible to maximize public participation and ensure the effectiveness of the initiative.

In conclusion, public engagement is essential in tracking the tiger mosquito and mitigating the risk of disease transmission in Sweden. By actively participating in the hunt through the Mosquito Alert app, individuals can contribute to the country's preparedness and protect public health.

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