Why Johns Hopkins, Bill Gates foundation want a mosquito emoji

A mosquito emoji would improve public health dialogue, according to a June 30 proposal out of the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Marla Shaivitz, a digital communications manager at CCP, and Jeff Chertack, a senior program officer for malaria advocacy and communications at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium requesting it develop a mosquito emoji this year.

"A mosquito emoji would be an important addition to the current set of insect emoji," Ms. Shaivitz told the Johns Hopkins University Hub. "It would give health professionals a quick way to communicate with the public about the presence of mosquitoes and allow researchers to promote their work around mosquito-borne diseases more easily via social media."

Mosquitoes, which spread diseases like malaria, Zika and the dengue virus, contribute to several million deaths each year, according to the proposal. "Over half the world's population lives at risk of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, and climate change is facilitating their spread, increasing the threat of diseases they transmit to new populations," the proposal reads.

The cultural role of emoji, too, is spreading rapidly throughout modern society, according to the Hub. Only a few emoji are added each year, based on proposals submitted to the Unicode Consortium. Next month, the organization will decide which of 67 finalist proposals — including the mosquito, llama and sliced bagel — to add to the emoji lineup.

Ms. Shaivitz and Mr. Chertack emphasized the mosquito emoji would also be used by people affected by the insect, in addition to public health researchers. Ms. Shaivitz analyzed posts related to mosquitoes on Twitter, and determined, on average, there are almost 15,000 more mosquito-related tweets each day than beetle-related tweets, for example.

"Finally, the mosquito could be used to express annoyance or frustration, potentially paired with the face with rolling eyes or the smirking face," the proposal suggests.

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