Climate change is causing global temperature rise which is yielding unintended consequences with potentially more profound implications than initially understood. In December 2023, the mean temperature in Türkiye registered at 8.3 degrees, which is 3.5 degrees higher than the average temperature between 1991 and 2020, according to data from the Turkish State Meteorological Service. As a result of this climatic shift, the mosquito predicament extended to a year-round phenomenon.
Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Çetin, who is a lecturer at the Akdeniz University Science Faculty, affirms that the temperature elevation has led to a surge in the mosquito population. Türkiye hosts about 60 different kinds of mosquito species, with the culex mosquito being one of the most prevalent. In the 1980s, this species would produce 22 generations, but in the last couple of years, this number has increased to 24 or even 25. There are risks associated with the highly tended generational turnover and mosquito population, the most important of which is an increased susceptibility to illness.
Culex mosquitoes, belonging to the Anopheles mosquito family, are carriers of malaria, a severe and potentially lethal disease. These types of adult mosquitoes usually spend the winter hibernating inside buildings, barns, or sewers to avoid freezing. However, the majority of mosquitoes no longer hibernate due to rising temperatures, particularly in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. The erratic temperature fluctuations disturb the animal migration and hibernation patterns, impacting their survival activities because they rely on temperature to migrate or hibernate. In the case of culex mosquitoes, the statement above not only affects them but also poses health risks to humans. While they do not hibernate, the elevated temperatures enable them to survive the winter. This belief appears to be supported by the growing number of complaints about mosquitoes attacking and feeding on human blood, even during the winter months. Contrary to expectations, cases of malaria as well as other diseases persist in winter, underscoring the ongoing struggle with the number of mosquitoes in Türkiye’s climate.
To address this issue, Prof. Dr. Çetin emphasizes the imperative for local governments to initiate rigorous disinfection measures. He contends that standard disinfestation may be insufficient due to irregular rains that can wash off the applied medications. Moreover, small ponds forming in places like unused car tiers or canals around houses can create secret warm hiding places for mosquitoes in the winter.
If mosquitoes continue to reproduce at this rate, with a cessation of hibernation, Türkiye could face a serious malaria problem. Therefore, there is a pressing need to raise awareness about what malaria is, its symptoms, and appropriate response measures.
Malaria is an illness caused by parasites, and it is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes. The disease used to be uncommon in temperate climates and mostly seen in tropical and subtropical countries, but because of climate change, the countries it affects include previously unaffected ones as well. With an annual death toll of 400 thousand and an estimated 290 million infections, malaria demands attention. Symptoms of malaria encompass fevers, chills, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and coughs. Some individuals may have malaria “attacks”, which start with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever and sweating. Although the symptoms typically manifest within the initial weeks post-bite, certain malaria parasites can lie dormant in the body for up to a year. It is recommended that people experiencing a high fever after visiting high-risk malaria regions seek medical attention promptly.
Treatment for malaria involves medications targeting the parasites, and the duration of the treatment varies based on the age, the type of malaria, and symptom severity. Chloroquine phosphate and artemisin-based combination therapies, integrating multiple prescription medications, are commonly employed, despite the fact that resistance issues hinder chloroquine phosphate efficacy in some global regions.
In conclusion, even though the effects of climate change, while not always directly impacting humanity, can induce major damage, as evidenced by mosquito-related issues and the consequent disease susceptibility.
Mayo Clinic. “Malaria - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 9 Feb. 2023.
Mayo clinic. “Malaria - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic.” Mayoclinic.org, MAYO CLINIC, 2018.
Yıldırım, Tolga. “Profesörden Uyarı: Kontrol Edilmezse Büyük Problemle Karşı Karşıya Kalacağız.” Milliyet, 19 Jan. 2024.