Climate change affects the survival and transmission of arthropod vectors as well as the development rates of vector-borne pathogens. Increased international travel is also an important factor in the spread of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) such as dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, chikungunya, and malaria. Dengue is the most important vector-borne viral disease. An estimated 2.5 billion people are at risk of infection in the world and there are approximately 50 million dengue infections and an estimated 500,000 individuals are hospitalized with dengue haemorrhagic fever annually. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is one of the vectors of dengue virus, and populations already exist on Jeju Island, South Korea. Currently, colder winter temperatures kill off Asian tiger mosquito populations and there is no evidence of the mosquitos being vectors for the dengue virus in this location. However, dengue virus-bearing mosquito vectors can inflow to Jeju Island from endemic area such as Vietnam by increased international travel, and this mosquito vector's survival during colder winter months will likely occur due to the effects of climate change.
Methods and Results
In this section, we show the geographical distribution of medically important mosquito vectors such as Ae. albopictus, a vector of both dengue and chikungunya viruses; Culex pipiens, a vector of West Nile virus; and Anopheles sinensis, a vector of Plasmodium vivax, within Jeju Island, South Korea. We found a significant association between the mean temperature, amount of precipitation, and density of mosquitoes. The phylogenetic analyses show that an Ae. albopictus, collected in southern area of Jeju Island, was identical to specimens found in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and not Nagasaki, Japan.
Our results suggest that mosquito vectors or virus-bearing vectors can transmit from epidemic regions of Southeast Asia to Jeju Island and can survive during colder winter months. Therefore, Jeju Island is no longer safe from vector borne diseases (VBDs) due to the effects of globalization and climate change, and we should immediately monitor regional climate change to identify newly emerging VBDs.