Beyond their notorious reputation as an annoying and useless pest, mosquitoes actually pose various significant health threats. Mosquitoes can transmit several very dangerous diseases. You have likely heard of these diseases and may not even known they were were passed along by mosquitoes as they carry the disease from one bite victim to the next. The process of transmission is so easy that every year, more than one million people will eventually succumb to diseases they acquired from mosquito bites. All that said, let’s talk about the five most dangerous diseases these little pests transmit.
Malaria is actually a parasite that mosquitoes share. While you notice a mosquito bite right away, you won’t start noticing malaria symptoms for 10-15 after the fact. Those symptoms can include such favorites as fatigue, headache, fever, and vomiting. Malaria is treatable with anti-malarial drugs, such as Quinine. If not treated, however, a victim can often expect the symptoms to return within a few months. Most reports of Malaria come from Sub-Saharan Africa, where access to preventive measures are often limited. Still, globally, anywhere from 300-600 million people will contract Malaria. Beyond that, Malaria will kill more than one million people annually. Most victims are younger than five years old.
Aedes mosquitoes from tropical regions are responsible for the spread of Dengue Fever, which is caused by a virus the mosquitoes transmit. The initial symptoms include headaches, fever, rashes, joint pain, and even eye pain. The onset of these symptoms can be expected 4-13 days after the bite occurs. For an unlucky portion of victims, the disease can progress to an even more dangerous disease called Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. Unlike Malaria, there is actually no vaccine or treatment regimen for Dengue Fever. Every year, approximately 390 million people will contract this disease.
West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus has been grabbing more headlines in the last 20 years than the other diseases on this list. This virus is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes. The first documented large-scale outbreak occurred in Romania in 1996. From Romania, West Nile Virus has made its way all across the world, including America. One of the most terrifying aspects of West Nile Virus is that most victims (about 80%) experience no symptoms. Of those who do get symptoms, the onset is anywhere from 2-15 days after the initial bite. Those symptoms include such hits as: fatigue, rash, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and muscle pain. On occasion, West Nile Virus can also affect a victims central nervous system (e.g., brain and spine). While there is no vaccine for West Nile Virus, there is a treatment regimen. The first reported case of West Nile in America was confirmed in 1999. To date, there have been about 42,000 more cases reported—19,000 of which have included neurological disease. Beyond that, 1,700 have died from the disease.
In addition to spreading Dengue Fever, Aedes mosquitoes also spread Yellow Fever. After a bite, victims can expect the onset of symptoms 4-7 days later. Those symptoms include nausea, headache, and fever. In fact, of those who get severe symptoms, half will die. The good news is that there is a vaccine for Yellow Fever. If you are in (or visiting) an area where you could be exposed to Yellow Fever, you should definitely get it; there is no specific treatment for the disease after you have contracted it. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 84,000-170,000 people will contract Yellow Fever every year and up to 60,000 will die from it.
In relation to the other diseases on this list, Zika Virus is the new kid on the block. Zika virus was actually first discovered in 1947. First cases in humans weren’t observed until 1952. Still, since that time, there have been very few reported cases… until everything hit the fan in 2015. That’s when a Zika Virus breakout started in Brazil. What makes Zika Virus so nasty is that 80% of the people who contract it will experience exactly no symptoms. Those who do feel symptoms express minor irritation, such as red eyes, rash, joint pain, and fever. Even if you have symptoms, you are very unlikely to die. Zika very rarely kills those infected. What it can do, however, is possibly cause microcephaly in babies born to mothers who contracted Zika Virus during pregnancy. Like Dengue Fever and Yellow fever, the Aedes mosquito is, again, the culprit for the spread of Zika Virus. This mosquito is usually confined to tropical areas. In an interesting twist, however, the genus of the same mosquito can be found in Florida, Hawaii and the Gulf Coast. In unseasonably warm weather, it can be found as far north as Washington, D.C. (Yikes!) As of this writing, there is also no known vaccine, nor treatment regimen. The WHO has proclaimed that up to four million people in the Americas have the potential to be infected by the Zika Virus by year’s end.
While the diseases on this list are the most dangerous, it is far from an exhaustive list of mosquito-borne illness. Others include Japanese Encephalitis, Murray Valley Encephalitis, Rift Valley Fever, Chikungunya Fever, and many more. It’s not just humans at risk, either. Mosquitoes can spread diseases to your pets, too. Heartworm, which can be life-threatening for dogs, is spread by mosquitoes. Western Equine Encephalitis can affect humans and horses alike.
To wrap it all up, mosquitoes are more than just pests. They can be purveyors of very serious diseases. The best way to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes is by seeking mosquito treatment plans before mosquito season starts. To learn how E.P.M. can help, give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today.