Tag Archives: mosquitoes

Zika found in South Beach, where spraying is not possible

South Beach has been identified as a second site of Zika transmission by mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland.

Containing it there will be difficult, because high-rise buildings and strong winds make it impractical to spray the neighborhood from the air, officials said.

Five cases of Zika have been connected to mosquitoes in Miami Beach, bringing the state’s caseload to 36 infections not related to travel outside the U.S., Florida’s governor and health department announced Friday.

The discovery prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to announce that it was expanding its travel warning for pregnant women to include an area in Miami Beach known for nightclubs, pedestrian thoroughfares and beaches.

Zika infection can cause severe brain-related birth defects, including a dangerously small head, if women are infected during pregnancy.

The virus’s apparent spread from a Miami neighborhood popular for day trips to the South Beach streets where many tourists sleep has rattled the tourism industry, even in the slower summer season.

Gov. Rick Scott has directed Florida’s health department to offer mosquito spraying and related services at no cost to Miami-Dade County’s hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. More than 15.5 million people made overnight visits to Miami and nearby beaches in 2015, with an impact of $24.4 billion, according to figures from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The CDC previously warned pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood arts district in Miami. In an Aug. 19 statement, the agency said pregnant women may also want to consider postponing nonessential travel throughout Miami-Dade County if they’re concerned about potential exposure to the mosquito-borne virus.

“We’re in the midst of mosquito season and expect more Zika infections in the days and months to come,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “It is difficult to predict how long active transmission will continue.”

Aerial spraying and door-to-door operations on the ground have cut mosquito populations in Wynwood by up to 90 percent, but Zika may be continuing as mosquitoes breed, Frieden told reporters Friday.

“The mosquitoes are persistent and we won’t know for a couple of weeks whether these aggressive measures have worked,” Frieden said.

Aerial spraying isn’t practical over South Beach because of the height of its buildings and strong winds over the narrow island city, Frieden said. Officials will be limited to spraying for mosquitoes at ground level in the highly populated area.

“Miami Beach does have a series of characteristics that make it particularly challenging,” Frieden said.

Two of the people infected in Miami Beach are Miami-Dade County residents, and three are tourists, including one man and two women, Scott said. The tourists are residents of New York, Texas and Taiwan.

The new area of infection in South Beach is roughly 1.5 square miles between 8th and 28th streets, according to Florida’s Department of Health.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said during a news conference Friday afternoon that the Zika reports certainly aren’t ideal for tourism, but he expects the long-term impact to be relatively minor. He said city workers are trying to get rid of standing water and foliage that might attract the virus-spreading insects, while the county begins a fumigation program to kill the bugs.

“Between our efforts and the county’s spraying efforts, the last thing I’d ever want to be on Miami Beach is a mosquito,” Levine said.

Three vacuum trucks purchased to help Miami Beach fight rising sea levels have been used since the beginning of the year to drain water in low-lying areas where mosquitoes could breed, said Roy Coley, the city’s infrastructure director.

The city also has been sending workers to fill potholes collecting water in alleys and fix leaky beach showers, in addition to applying pesticides to the area’s many construction sites and flood-prone residential streets, Coley said.

“Our call volume has increased significantly,” Coley said.

Officials at Art Basel Miami Beach and other upcoming events cautiously expressed confidence in the region’s mosquito control efforts. Organizers of the Americas Food and Beverage Show will add mosquito repellent to goody bags at the late September event at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

“We’re taking extra precautions,” said Yendi Alvarez, the show’s media coordinator. “This wasn’t even a thought last year. We put this in place once the news started getting crazy.”

Possible infections outside Wynwood and Miami Beach also are being investigated. The virus only causes mild, flu-like symptoms in most people, making it difficult to confirm local transmissions, the CDC said.

“For this reason, it is possible that other neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County have active Zika transmission that is not yet apparent,” the CDC’s statement said.

The U.S. Senate’s top Democrat issued a call for Congress to return from its weekslong summer break to deal with the virus, an unlikely scenario in light of the dysfunction that prevented lawmakers from agreeing on money to fight the mosquito-borne disease. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said that the American people cannot afford to wait any longer for action.

President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds in February to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus. But lawmakers left Washington in mid-July for a seven-week recess without approving any of the money. Abortion politics played a central role in the impasse.

Republicans angered Democrats by adding a provision to a $1.1 billion take-it-or-leave-it measure that would have blocked Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico from receiving money.

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in Tampa, Florida, and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.


Researchers fear that mosquitoes in the U.S. have begun spreading the Zika virus

Florida health officials are investigating four mysterious cases of Zika infection that do not appear to be related to travel.

The four cases were detected in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Investigating whether Zika is being carried by mosquitoes locally, scientists plan to survey houses and people within a 150-yard radius of the cases, which is the flying radius of the insect.

U.S. experts also were baffled last week by a Zika case in Utah in which a care-giver caught Zika after tending to a dying elderly man with the virus.

The cases have raised the possibility that mosquitoes in the U.S. have begun to spread the virus.

Congress left for a seven-week vacation without giving the Obama administration any of the $1.9 billion it’s seeking to battle the Zika virus. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin making awards totaling nearly $60 million to states, cities, and territories to support efforts to protect Americans from Zika virus disease and adverse health outcomes that can result from Zika infection, including the serious birth defect microcephaly, according to a statement issued by the agency,

“Local, state and territorial health departments are on the front lines in the fight against Zika,” said CDC director Tom Frieden in a prepared statement.“These CDC funds will strengthen state and territorial capacity to respond to Zika virus, an increasingly concerning public health threat for pregnant women and babies. We hope Congress will provide the additional resources we need to fully support the Zika response.”

Due to congressional inaction, the CDC has to borrow the money to combat Zika from funds intended for flu, hurricane relief and other emergencies. The CDC has warned that it may have to delay testing for a vaccine if Congress continues to deny adequate funding to fight the disease.

The CDC has awarded $812,000 to Wisconsin to fight the Zika virus. Wisconsin Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, apparently will allow the state to take the money, even though they’ve steadfastly refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid for poor families in the state. They oppose federal programs on philosophical grounds, saying such efforts represent “big government.”

Democrats have said that Walker’s refusal of federal Medicaid expansion has forced state taxpayers more to cover fewer people in the BadgerCare Plus health plan. If Walker had accepted the money, 87,000 more adults a month would have been served under the state’s health plan.

Walker’s rejection of Medicaid expansion, combined with his massive tax breaks to the very wealthy, has contributed to a $2.2 billion budget deficit.

According to estimates by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state could have saved more than $500 million over three and a half years by accepting federal Medicaid expansion. Wisconsin will lose about $1.8 billion in 2022 for rejecting the federal funds.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin taxpayers are still pouring money into the federal program, but it’s going to other states.

How Zika can spread

  • Bites from mosquitoes that carry the virus
  • Maternal transmission from mother to baby in the womb
  • Unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sexual intercourse – although rare, the virus can persist in semen
  • Zika virus has been found in other bodily fluids, including saliva and urine, but it is unknown whether it can spread through these routes
  • Blood transfusion — very likely but not confirmed

Bugged Out: ’Tis the season that can drive you buggy

A big pink strawberry moon rose high, a rare full moon on the solstice.

Tam Burnett went to the water’s edge to welcome summer. She stood with binoculars in one hand and she swatted at mosquitoes with the other.

Then she swore.

Bugs bug Burnett, even though she’s used to them. She’s an avid recreational fisher who routinely encounters thick masses of mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums.

“They are pesky but they also can carry disease. Dude, you have to take precautions,” said Burnett, who wears a homemade repellent of cinnamon and thyme oil.

Burnett, who lives in Tampa, Florida, is hearing a lot of buzz these days about mosquitoes and Zika virus disease.

That buzz carries.

Monica Giménez is hearing the buzz in Racine.

“So, OK. I know the mosquitoes here are not supposed to carry Zika,” she recently told WiG. “But I think there’s a lot still to learn. Mostly I’m concerned because I go to Puerto Rico every September to see family.”

Global health emergency

Reports of outbreaks of Zika virus disease began making headlines in 2015 and, by February of this year, the World Health Organization had declared a public health emergency.

The Zika virus has affected at least 60 countries on four continents and is an epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 1,700 cases of infection.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes. But sexual transmission — Zika can live in semen for an extended period — also has been documented.

The most common symptoms are flu-like: fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis or red eyes. However, only about 20 percent of people infected with Zika show symptoms. In previous outbreaks, the illness has typically been mild, with symptoms lasting several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC.

However, evidence now links Zika virus in pregnant women to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an uncommon condition of the nervous system that damages nerve cells and causes muscle weakness — and sometimes paralysis. In Puerto Rico alone, almost 200 pregnant women have been exposed to Zika so far.

In April, the CDC brought together more than 300 local, state and federal officials to discuss preparations for the likelihood of mosquito-born transmission of the virus in some parts of the continental United States. To date, the U.S. government is tracking active Zika transmission in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and America Samoa. There have been no reports of mosquitoes spreading the virus on the mainland.

“Everyone has a role to play,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement released just before the meeting.

“The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are already active in U.S. territories, hundreds of travelers with Zika have already returned to the continental U.S., and we could well see clusters of Zika virus in the continental U.S. in the coming months. Urgent action is needed, especially to minimize the risk of exposure during pregnancy.”

Public health officials returned from the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters to their cities and states to organize local and regional responses.

Southern states are on high alert, especially Texas and Florida. In the Florida Keys, there’s been discussion of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

In the northern states, including Wisconsin, officials emphasize safe-sex precautions and the travel warnings, especially for women traveling to locations where there have been active transmissions.

Meanwhile, a recent study found two anti-Zika vaccines to be completely effective in mice. Human safety trials could start in months.

Wisconsin threats

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed several Zika virus infections among Wisconsin travelers.

But officials emphasize the Aedes species that can transmit Zika has not been found in the state.

“In over 10 years of monitoring, we have not found the species of mosquitoes identified as Zika carriers in our community,” John Hausbeck, environmental health supervisor for Public Health Madison and Dane County, said after reporting in late May the first Zika virus infection in the county. The woman acquired the infection while traveling in Colombia.

“We will continue to monitor this upcoming season for these specific mosquitoes, in addition to other species that transmit disease,” Hausbeck said.

In Wisconsin, those who venture outdoors have greater reason to be concerned with the West Nile virus and northern house mosquitoes, as well as Lyme disease and deer ticks, which can be found throughout the state.

West Nile is an arbovirus transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes that become infected by feeding on infected birds.

An estimated 80 percent of people infected with West Nile don’t experience symptoms. Those who do may suffer a mild illness — fever, headache, muscle pains, skin rash, swollen lymph nodes. Less than 1 percent becomes seriously ill.

The first human case in Wisconsin was reported in 2002. In 2015, Health Services reported seven human cases of West Nile virus.

Dane County on June 20 reported the discovery of a bird that tested positive for the virus, the first finding after May 1, when surveillance for the season began.

“West Nile virus seems to be here to stay, so the best way to avoid the disease is to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.

The county health department — and many others in the state — also issued warnings about peak tick season.

“Because these ticks carry Lyme disease and other pathogens, people should take care to do tick checks whenever they have been out in woods, even in their own backyards,” advised Susan Paskewitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of entomology.

The UW-Madison’s Insect Diagnostic Lab in the entomology department is one of the best resources in Wisconsin on insect research and trends.

In its Top Insect Trends of 2015 review, the lab reported on the emerging health threat posed by deer ticks.

“Deer tick populations have exploded in the past few decades” and “one of the more alarming trends is urban encroachment,” the lab reported.

About 40 percent of adult ticks in Wisconsin carry the microorganism responsible for Lyme disease. So, “this is an issue that will continue to exist in the state for years to come,” according to the lab.

Lyme disease can produce a range of symptoms, including rash, fever, headache, fatigue, stiffness and joint pain. If left untreated, complications may include meningitis, facial palsy, heart abnormalities and arthritis.

The state reported more than 3,200 human cases of Lyme disease in 2015, and that number is believed to be just 10 percent of the total cases.

Deer ticks also can spread other diseases — including anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis — with similar symptoms to those of Lyme disease, so-named because it was first recognized in Lyme, Connecticut.

On June 23, in its weekly overview of conditions at state parks, trails and forests, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported, “Mosquitoes and deer flies are out but some areas are reporting that so far — knock on wood — they have not been as bad as some recent years.”

That’s good news to outdoors enthusiast Andrew Colman of Milwaukee, who said he was finalizing plans for his family to go fishing on the Fourth of July.

“We protect ourselves, of course,” Colman said. “But less bugs is better.”

Giménez also has plans to get outdoors for the Fourth, with perhaps a biking trip in Kettle Moraine State Forest.

“Well, summer is the best time in Wisconsin,” she said.

Burnett, meanwhile, will be on the water somewhere, bathed in her thyme-and-cinnamon repellent.

Did you know?

The tropical mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime. The same mosquitoes also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Home remedies,  pollinator protections

A pesticide is a substance used to control unwanted plants, rodents and insect pests. Pesticides include herbicides, rodenticides, fungicides and insecticides. WiG has published many reports about the environmental harm caused by chemical pesticides, especially insecticides.

There are many steps to deal with pest control without using pesticides:

• Avoid pest problems by burying infested plant residues, removing pest habitat and planting pest-resistant plants.

• Clear out any containers that collect water, as even a bottle cap of water can provide breeding ground for insects.

• Plant native flowering plant species to support pollinators. Also, chose plant species naturally resistant to insect pests, including lavender and catnip.

• Apply plant-based organic pesticides.

• Employ netting, screens or traps.

Sources: Task Force of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, Natural Resources Defense Council

Essential oils for outdoors

WiG invited readers to share their favorite natural insect repellents. Recommendations include: a mixture of lemon eucalyptus oil and sunflower oil or witch hazel; crushed lavender flowers mixed with sunflower oil; cinnamon oil and water; and thyme oil and water.

On the Web 

Recommended surfing:

Bugs of the Week, a blog by Kate “The Bug Lady” Redmond, www4.uwm.edu/fieldstation/.

• Reports from the Insect Diagnostic Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, labs.russell.wisc.edu/insectlab/.

The Outdoor Report, an overview of conditions in state parks, trails and forests from the Department of Natural Resources, dnr.wi.gov/news/or/.

images - news - lavender

West Nile virus found in Milwaukee mosquitoes

Milwaukee health officials say West Nile virus has been found in mosquitoes collected in the city.

The Milwaukee Health Department said in a news release that the mosquitoes that tested positive were collected as part of seasonal surveillance for West Nile virus. There hasn’t been a confirmed case of the virus in humans this year in Milwaukee.

The health department says most infections happen between June and September in Wisconsin. The virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites, though not all mosquitoes have the virus.

According to the health department, just 20 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will see symptoms such as fever, rash, headache and joint pain.

Climate, genetics affect how long virus-carrying mosquitoes live

It’s just math: The longer a mosquito lives, the better its odds of transmitting disease to humans or animals.

But as it turns out, factors such as the mosquito’s own genetics and the climate it lives in have a big — albeit complicated and not wholly understood — role to play in its lifespan.

University of Florida researchers, hoping to better understand how West Nile virus affects mosquitoes, set up an experiment they outline in the Journal of Vector Ecology’s current issue.

Mosquitoes can transmit any number of pathogens to humans, including protozoan malaria, West Nile, dengue and chikungunya viruses. Malaria cases range between 350 million and 500 million each year, with 1 million to 3 million deaths every year.

In the experiment, UF researchers examined survival rates for mosquitoes from two laboratory-reared colonies, one from Gainesville, Florida, and one from Vero Beach, Florida.

Half of each of the mosquito colonies was fed West Nile virus-infected blood, the other half kept as a control population, and fed blood without the virus.

They divided the groups once more, this time keeping the mosquitoes at two temperatures, one group at 80.6 degrees, the other at 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit — a rather large difference in temperature for cold-blooded insects.

Their findings were unexpected and illuminating, said Barry Alto, a UF assistant professor of arbovirology based at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

“Our results indicate that interactions between mosquitoes and arboviruses are really complex … these things that haven’t really been taken into account previously might make a difference,” said Alto, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The researchers found that warmer temperature shortened survival. Also, for the most part, the Vero Beach mosquitoes lived longer than those from Gainesville, indicating that some groups, or strains, of mosquitoes might just be genetically hardier than others.

They found that in general, the mosquitoes fared better at cooler temperatures.

But they also found that the West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes from Gainesville fared worse than their counterparts at the hotter temperatures, and to their surprise, that the Vero Beach-bred mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus lived longer than all other groups at the cooler temperature, including control-group mosquitoes not exposed to the virus. 

Ingesting virus-infected blood may take a toll on the mosquito’s health, Alto said, but it’s clear that other factors: immune response, genetics and the environment, are also at play and need more study.

“It’s quite complex, there’s a lot of stuff going on here,” Alto said. “But I think the take-home  message is that these viruses, when they’re in mosquitoes, not only can they alter parameters like survivorship that are really important to disease transmission, but they can alter them in non-intuitive ways — sometimes enhancing, sometimes decreasing survivorship, and that those situations arise when you start considering other factors of the environment, like temperature.”

Adding to scientists’ knowledge base of how disease affects insects is key to finding the best ways to limit its spread, Alto said.

“In the most general sense, in order for humans to control disease, we really need to know how the mosquito interacts with these viruses,” he said. “In the absence of a human vaccine, the best way to control any sort of mosquito-borne virus is to control the mosquito. Simply put, if the mosquito doesn’t bite you, you’re not going to get the pathogen.”

Besides Alto, the research team included Stephanie Richards, an assistant professor at East Carolina University; Sheri Anderson, a former graduate student at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and Cynthia Lord, an associate professor in modeling of vector-borne disease transmission, also of the FMEL. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and UF/IFAS.

Summertime woes worsen with climate change

he Natural Resources Defense Council says climate change will worsen some of the common woes of summertime.

With climate change comes more intensive heat waves and bad air alert days, more insects and poison ivy, more sneezing and wheezing, more foodborne illness and ruined visits to national parks.

“Across America, climate change already is super-charging summer, and with hotter days we’re seeing more risks to our health and happiness,” said Peter Altman, director of NRDC’s Climate Campaign. “We can ease these warm-day woes today, but it would be wrong to doom tomorrow’s families and children to even more heat waves, code red air alerts, disease-carrying ticks, poison ivy rashes, stomach illnesses and degraded national landmarks. That’s not a future they deserve. And that’s why we need to rein in the biggest source of climate pollution, the unrestricted carbon pollution from power plants.”

Heat waves: Temperatures in cities already are higher due to the urban heat island, and rising global temperatures from heat-trapping carbon pollution will make heat waves longer, hotter and more frequent. Eight of the nine warmest years since record-keeping began in 1880 have occurred since 2000. May 2014 was the hottest May ever. And temperatures could be hotter by 4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

Today, heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States. During heat waves, deaths and illness can occur from conditions caused by direct heat exposure (like heat stroke), but extreme heat can also increase hospital admissions or deaths among people with existing health conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory, or cerebrovascular diseases. Hot nighttime temperatures are especially dangerous to those vulnerable to heat stress.

What should you do?

• Never leave children or pets in unattended parked vehicles on hot days.

• Slow down. Reduce, reschedule or eliminate strenuous activities until the coolest part of the day.

• People with health problems should stay in the coolest place, which may not be indoors. Use shade outdoors, and drink plenty of water.

• Don’t get too much sun; sunburn lowers your body’s ability to dissipate heat.

Bad air alert days: With climate change, days will be hotter and that will amp up ground-level ozone smog pollution and increase the number of “bad air days.” These days, marked by local code red or code orange alerts warning people to curtail outdoor activities are based on daily air monitoring data gathered in the EPA’s Air Quality Index.

Bad air days put many of us at risk for irritated eyes, noses and lungs — but air pollution is particularly dangerous for people with respiratory diseases like asthma. Already about 27 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the American Lung Association. As the climate changes, unhealthy air pollution will get worse. Here’s how: Ozone smog forms when pollutants from vehicles, factories and other sources react with sunlight and heat. Increasing temperatures speed this process up, resulting in more smog. Added to the mix are ragweed and other allergens in the air—which are expected to worsen as climate change leads to more pollen production. Also, as dry areas get drier, wildfire risks go up and smoke from burning landscapes will further decrease air quality.

And so, those with asthma, allergies and other respiratory diseases will have a harder time in our hotter future.

What should you do?

• On high-smog days, take breaks and do less intense activities.

• Asthma sufferers should follow their asthma action plans and keep their quick relief medicine handy.

• Use the Air Quality Index to learn about local ozone smog conditions, and take precautions on bad air days.

Ticks and mosquitoes: Tick and mosquito bites are not only a nuisance of summertime, they transmit serious diseases. Unfortunately, climate change may create more favorable conditions for the spread of disease-carrying insects.

Warming temperatures and a changing climate are particularly likely to turn some U.S. regions into new suitable habitat for Lyme-carrying ticks. And the EPA just added Lyme disease as a new indicator of climate change.

Mosquito species that can transmit dengue fever typically live in tropical regions, but two species of mosquitoes that are capable of spreading dengue are now found in 28 states.

Scientists have projected that higher temperatures and lower precipitation leads to a higher probability of West Nile virus infections. One study estimates that by 2050, approximately 68 percent of California will face increased risk from West Nile virus due to climate change. West Nile is also projected to spread northward into other previously unaffected areas. A harbinger: in 2012, Maine recorded its first human case of West Nile Virus.

What should you do?

• After spending time outdoors, especially in wooded or grassy areas, check for ticks and remove them with tweezers. If a tick is attached for less than 24 hours, the chance of getting Lyme disease is lessened.

• To avoid insect bites, tuck in your shirt and wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when spending time outside.

• Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, buckets, plastic covers and other potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Empty and change water in bird baths, rain barrels and wading pools.

Poison ivy: Today, about 350,000 cases of poison ivy-induced contact dermatitis are reported each year. This will get worse with climate change because poison ivy grows faster and is more toxic as carbon dioxide pollution increases.

Even now, the plant can be found in forests, roadsides and even backyards in every state except California (although poison oak grows there with similar health impacts), Hawaii and Alaska.

What should you do?

• Wear long pants, long sleeves, boots, and gloves when working outside. If clothing is exposed, wash separately with hot water and detergent

• Do not burn poison ivy, as the smoke can cause severe allergic respiratory problems.

• If you come in contact, immediately and repeatedly rinse skin with dishwashing soap or detergent and water. Oatmeal baths and hydrocortisone cream can reduce itching.

Sneezing and wheezing: Climate change may already be making life miserable for the 30 to 40 million seasonal allergy sufferers nationwide, according to a number of scientific studies conducted over the past several years. Rising carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures are driving the growth of the very plants that make us sneeze and wheeze.

A 2011 study confirmed that ragweed, a major culprit in seasonal allergies, now sheds pollen up to a month longer than it did in 1995 in some parts of North America. In late summer, higher temperatures can worsen ozone smog at the same time ragweed plants produce their allergenic pollen, creating a “double-whammy” for respiratory health.

What should you do?

• Check daily pollen reports and ozone air quality conditions online, particularly on sunny, still, hot days.

• On days when pollen counts or ozone levels are high, minimize outdoor activities and keep windows closed when possible.

• Shower and wash bedding and outdoor clothing to remove pollen that settles on pillows and sheets and vacuum regularly. After outdoor work or play, use a damp cloth to remove pollen from hair and skin—or shower.

Foodborne illness: Salmonella and Campylobacter are two of the most common forms of bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Scientists have shown that hotter summer temperatures are closely associated with the number of Salmonella and Campylobacter infections. These and other diarrheal diseases are more common when temperatures are higher. Climate change also is expected to increase harmful algal blooms in some areas, which may lead to increases in illnesses from seafood consumption. Already, an estimated 10 percent of foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States result from seafood contaminated with algal toxins.

What should you do?

• Keep perishable food refrigerated — don’t leave out food for more than one hour when temperatures are above 90 Fahrenheit.

• Cook poultry, beef and eggs thoroughly. If you are served undercooked meat in a restaurant, don’t hesitate to send it back.

• Pay attention to shellfish warnings and alerts about harmful algal blooms. Cooking does not destroy algal toxins, so avoiding consumption of contaminated seafood is the only method to prevent illness from harmful algal blooms.

Dangerous swimming conditions: Climate change is expected to increase harmful algal blooms and runoff of pollution into beaches and waterways, leading to more unsafe swimming conditions. Harmful algal blooms, including “red tide” and blue-green algae, can cause respiratory symptoms and also irritate the eyes and skin.

Already, the Great Lakes states are seeing an abundance of algae growth causing beaches to be closed to swimming earlier in the year. Climate projections also show that, in the Great Lakes region, the amount of untreated sewage overflowing into waterways could increase significantly in coming decades as combined sewer systems are overwhelmed with rainwater, triggering even more beach closings.

What should you do?

• Check the safety of your local beach before swimming. Take a look at NRDC’s Testing the Waters Guide.

• Do not swim at your local beach for a day or two after heavy rainstorms, especially if your city does not monitor water quality.

Ruined visits to national landmarks and parks: Many of the United States’ iconic national parks, landmarks and heritage sites are at risk from climate change. Sea level rise, coastal erosion, increased flooding, heavy rains, and more frequent wildfires are damaging park land, archaeological resources, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes across the nation, according to research by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which recently provided case studies on 25 impacted sites.

What should you do?

• Send in a statement of support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to curb carbon pollution from power plants.

• Support efforts to build climate resiliency and prepare national parks and historic sites for the impacts of climate change.