On March 11th, Fiona Hunter of the Biological Sciences Department, Brock University spoke to us on the topic: “Global warming: Are Infectious Diseases Moving North?” Her research involves studying the behaviour of tics, blackflies and mosquitoes.
Fiona significantly increased our knowledge of the role that these flies play in the spread of infectious diseases. A few of the things that we learned were:
Black Flies (SIMULIIDAE)
- There were 250 species in North America
- 42 species exist in Algonquin Park alone
- They are emerging 7-10 days earlier than they did 30 years ago
- Only the females bite us for blood; Males are happy with pollen
- They spread malaria if and only if they first bite a human with malaria
- The malaria epidemic of 1826-1832 in Ontario was due to British engineers working on the Rideau Canal having brought it from the far east. 1,000 workers died of it.
- West Nile Virus is really spread by birds with mosquitoes picking the virus up and then biting us
- Fiona’s latest research project is trapping flying insects, especially no-see-ums, in a search for new “vectors” for transmitting disease.
- There is concerns that Blue Tongue disease which affects sheep and deer is moving north with climate change
Fiona concluded that new insect borne diseases could be expected to move into Canada as the climate changes and as we have more and more travelers internationally.
Next month, Gerald Archambeau will be our speaker at the April 8th, 2014 Probus meeting. He will discuss his autobiography entitled “A Struggle to walk with Dignity-The True Story of a Jamaican-born Canadian”2008. His is a unique perspective on Canada from an immigrant’s point of view.