From 1997 to 2003, the small town of Fallon, Nev., saw 14 cases of childhood leukemia. That's a rate 12 times higher than normally expected in such a period. Up until now, health experts have been unable to figure out why. But new research out of the University of California, San Francisco suggests that the leukemia cases might have been caused by an infection — an infection that was spread through the area to vulnerable children via mosquito bites.

In his report, recently published in Chemico-Biological Interactions, lead researcher Joe Wiemels commented, "The rural location of most cases suggests mosquitoes as a possible vector." Wiemels and his team found that the leukemia cases were most often diagnosed in the early to mid-summer, suggesting that the season was a factor in the transmission of the disease. They also noted that most of the affected children lived in rural areas surrounding the main town of Fallon, rather than in the downtown area.  

According to the report, the unusual timing and spacing of the affected kids suggested that an infection was the culprit.

If that's the case, it's possible that mosquitoes, which are abundant in the area at that time of year, were the primary mode of the infection's transmission. Once all of the vulnerable kids were infected, the cluster all but "fizzled out."

Just one more fun thing to think about as mosquito season swings into action. Got your eco-friendly bug spray ready?

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