The Role of Air Travel in the Transmission and Spread of Insect-borne Diseases

Air travel has long been suspected to play a role in the transmission and spread of insect-borne diseases. Considerable resources have been devoted to addressing the phenomenon of "airport malaria" (isolated cases of malaria in the vicinity of an international airport in a region in which malaria is not typically present). The assumption is that airport malaria is transmitted when a mosquito is transported during an international flight from a malaria-endemic region and then bites a human after landing. This theory has given rise to the practice of "disinsection"--using chemical pesticides to rid arriving aircraft of insects prior to disembarkation--which currently is required as a condition of landing by 20 countries (though not by the United States). More commonly, malaria and other insect-borne diseases are imported by infected passengers. The existence of suitable habitat in non-endemic regions with competent insect vectors may lead to resurgence of not only malaria but also other devastating insect-borne diseases such as dengue and Chikungunya fever in non-tropical regions such as the U.S. The concern about the growing threat of insect-borne diseases, combined with the theory that air travel is allowing the importation (or reintroduction) of diseases in the U.S., has renewed interest in insect-control programs at airports and on aircraft. However, a more appropriate focus for controlling the introduction and spread of insect-borne disease would be the infected traveler. Research is needed to provide a better understanding of how the transmission and spread of insect-borne diseases are facilitated by air travel. Such research would provide a basis for airports, airlines, and public health officials to assess the appropriateness and efficacy of current mitigation practices. The objective of this research is to develop a user-friendly GIS-based tool on a CD-ROM to help better define the roles of airports and airlines in the transmission and spread of insect-borne human diseases. The tool should show the interrelationships among the global distribution of insect-borne infectious diseases, locations of known outbreaks, and international air service routes to identify seasonal risks of insect-borne infectious disease transmission and spread by air travel, and to help identify potential mitigation strategies.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 2-20

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  USA  20591

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Navarrete, Joseph

  • Start Date: 20100708
  • Source Data: RiP Project 24413

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01461815
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 2-20
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 1:52PM