Deadly But Necessary


Here’s an interesting trivia question: what animal kills more human beings every year than any other?  The shark?  The lion?  Rhino?

The answer is the mosquito, and the statistics are not even close.  Over 400,000 people were killed last year by mosquito-borne malaria.  Mosquitos carry four different encephalitis viruses, plus the West Nile virus—and most recently, the Zika outbreak that is threatening attendees at the Rio Olympics.

But that begs a question: why do we tolerate this annoyance—and killer—in our midst?  Scientists who once relied on DDT and other crude chemical poisons now have powerful genetic eradication tools at their disposal, which make it possible to create infertile males who are released to mate with healthy females—and eliminate a generation of offspring.  Rinse, lather, repeat and suddenly a species has been removed from the local area.  An experiment in the Cayman Islands resulted in a 96% reduction in the mosquito population.

There are several reasons why scientists are hesitating.  The first is that only 200 out of roughly 3,000 varieties of mosquito actually bite humans and animals, and only a few of those are capable of carrying deadly diseases.  Mosquitos are important pollinators in many ecosystems, and they represent an important part of the food chain.  Moreover, even the species that annoy you don’t do it for most of their lives.  Only female mosquitos seek out blood, and only because they need extra nutrition in the time right before they lay their eggs.

Many of us live in climates where the mosquitos don’t carry dangerous diseases.  If you live in a moist, tropical environment, or plan to visit one, then your best bet is to use a repellant that contains one of the active ingredients recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: DEET (Off!; Cutter, Sawyer, Ultrathon), Picaridin (Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard, Autan), Oil of lemon eucalyptus (Repel), para-menthanediol, or IR3535 (SkinSmart).  And be thankful that you live in a country where malaria has largely been eradicated.

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site:

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association. 



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