For the most part, mosquitoes are considered an irritating nuisance that interrupt outdoor events, buzz in your ears while you are trying to sleep at night, and leave swollen, itchy bites as reminders of their presence on your skin. While most people don't really entertain the idea that those mosquitoes could also be carrying diseases, mosquitoes are in fact estimated to transmit mosquito diseases to more than 700 million people annually.
Mosquitoes are vector agents that carry mosquito-borne-diseases and in several cases have not only resulted in illness but also in some deaths each year. Since their immune system recognizes diseases as bad and discards the virus's genetic coding, mosquitoes are able to transmit viruses and parasites from person to person without catching the disease themselves.
By educating yourself about the different types of mosquito-borne diseases and learning how to control the mosquito population is the best defense and solution to prevent the risk of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses.
How do mosquitoes spread diseases?
Diseases that mosquitos carry are often picked up by the mosquito when it feeds on an infected host. Although the mosquito itself is not infected with the disease, it is still able to carry it and infect the next person or host that it feeds on while remaining healthy. Both male and female mosquitoes are nectar feeders. However, male mosquitoes do not suck blood so they do not transmit diseases. Female mosquitoes suck blood from people and animal hosts as part of their eating and breeding habits because they require a source of protein to produce their eggs. When a female mosquito bites, she also injects saliva and anticoagulants into the host's blood which may also contain disease-causing viruses or other parasites. Learning about the different types of mosquito diseases and how to prevent mosquitoes from spreading them is the best way to gain mosquito control over your property and will present the best chance at protecting yourself from mosquito diseases.
What are the different types of mosquito diseases?
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that is often contracted by humans visiting or living in foreign countries with large populations of the female Anopheles mosquito. Once an infected mosquito spreads Malaria to a human, it may take several weeks before the infected person begins to show any signs or symptoms of the disease making Malaria a difficult mosquito-borne illness to diagnose. Malaria is a severe, menacing disease that has been known to return several months or even years after a patient has been treated for the disease. Symptoms of Malaria can be mistaken for flu-like symptoms and include fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting and in severe cases can lead to coma and death. There are treatment choices for those who have been diagnosed with Malaria and also preventative treatments that can be taken to prevent Malaria infection before traveling to foreign countries.
2. West Nile Virus -
The West Nile Virus is most commonly spread from infected mosquitoes to birds however, this mosquito-borne disease can and has been spread to humans as well and is becoming one of the diseases that are of most concern to those living in the United States, especially those living on the shores. The West Nile Virus is carried by one of the most common mosquito species identified as the Culex mosquito. The West Nile Virus is particularly risky for people with weak immune systems and younger children. Symptoms of the West Nile Virus are similar to flu-like symptoms and may include fever, body aches, and headaches. In some cases, severe reaction could include paralysis and encephalitis. Most of the time, people fully recover from the West Nile Virus within a couple of weeks. But permanent problems such as seizures, memory loss, and brain damage can occur, especially in children and older people.
3. Dengue Fever -
Dengue Fever is a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne illness that is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito. Once the Aedes mosquito has bitten a person with the dengue virus in their blood, the mosquito then carries the virus to the next person it feeds on and spreads the virus to that host. Dengue Fever has been identified as the leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and sub tropics and most cases of Dengue Fever in the United States occur in people who contracted the infection while they were traveling abroad.
Although most cases of Dengue Fever occur abroad, is becoming more of a threat to those living along the Texas-Mexico border and in other parts of the Southern United States as well. Symptoms of Dengue Fever usually begin to show four to six days after the infection and typically last up to 10 days. These symptoms may include sudden high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, sever joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, skin rash which appears three to four days after the onset fever, and mild bleeding such as a nose bleed, bleeding gums, or easy bruising. If you think you may have dengue fever, you should use pain relievers with acetaminophen and avoid medicines with aspirin, which could worsen bleeding.
4. Yellow Fever -
Yellow Fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection that is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito. Yellow Fever is believed to have originated from Africa and was spread to South America through slave trade in the 16th century. Although the risk of Yellow Fever occurs mostly in tropical climates, the disease seems to be on the rise internationally due to a decreased immunity to infection among local populations, deforestation, climate change, and high-density urbanization. Although people cannot spread Yellow Fever amongst themselves through casual contact, it can be transmitted directly into the blood through needles. Yellow Fever patients usually go through two sets of symptoms once they are infected by the disease carrying mosquito.
The first symptoms include fever, chills, and yellowing of the skin. The second, more toxic stage of Yellow Fever could cause jaundice or liver damage, hepatitis, internal bleeding, shock, vomiting blood, and multi-system organ failure and death. The world health organization estimates that up to 50% of people worldwide who reach the second sever phase of Yellow Fever will die. Those in the first phases of the disease are said to recover within 3-4 days. There is a safe and effective vaccine for Yellow Fever and some countries require Yellow Fever vaccinations for travelers.
5. Encephalitis -
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEEV) - Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a virus that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Culiseta melanura mosquito. Only a few cases of EEEV have been reported in the US each year as most of EEEV occurrences are in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. The majority of people infected with Eastern Equine Ecenphalitis don't experience any illness. However, in severe cases patients have reported headaches, high fevers, chills and vomiting. EEEV is one of the most severe mosquito diseases in the United States and in some cases has been known to cause significant brain damage in most survivors.
Japanese Encephalitis - Japanese Encephalitis is transmitted from an infected Culex mosquito to a human through a mosquito bite. Outbreaks of Japanese Encephalitis in the US are rare and mostly occur in Asia. The majority of Japanese Encephalitis cases are a threat to residents of rural areas in endemic locations, active duty military personnel that have been deployed to endemic areas, and expatriates in rural areas. The disease risk of Japanese Encephalitis is extremely low in travelers. Mild cases could suffer 5-15 days of symptoms including a sudden onset fever, headache, and vomiting. More serious cases and symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis include paralysis, seizures, coma and possibly death.
Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLEV) - Saint Louis Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease that is spread for the Culex mosquito to a person through a mosquito bite. Culex mosquitoes generally contract Saint Louis Encephalitis by feeding on birds that are infected with the virus. This virus mostly affects the United States. However, occasional cases have been reported in Mexico and Canada. Symptoms of SLEV include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. In older adults, SLEV could cause inflammation of the brain, long-term disability and even death.
La Crosse Encephalitis - (LACV) - La Crosse Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne illness that is transmitted to humans through a bite by an infected mosquito. Aedes mosquitoes such as the Asian Tiger mosquito are aggressive day biters and carriers of the La Crosse Encephalitis virus. This virus was first discovered in La Crosse, WI in 1963 and has since then been detected in several Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states. Now, with an infection rate of up to 75 discovered cases annually, most cases of LACV are reported in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio and recently the threat of the disease has spread to West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. Symptoms of La Crosse Encephalitis include nausea, headache, and vomiting. In severe cases patients have reported seizures, coma, paralysis, and permanent brain damage.
Western Equine Encephalitis - Western Equine Ecephalitis is a restively uncommon mosquito-borne disease. Since 1964, less than 700 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the United States. Western Equine Ecephalitis is transmitted to humans through a bite by an infected Culex mosquito specie. This virus is mostly apparent in states west of the Mississippi river and in some countries in South America. Symptoms of the Western Equine Encephalitis include mild flu-like symptoms and in severe rare cases, coma and death.
6. Rift Valley Fever -
Rift Valley Fever is a mosquito transmitted virus that primarily affects livestock however, some humans have been infected with the virus. This mostly occurs in Africa where several million people were infected and thousands died from the disease. Rift Valley Fever is also a threat in the Middle East. The Aedes mosquito is a carrier of Rift Valley Fever. Symptoms of the Rift Valley Fever include fever, weakness, back pain, dizziness, and weight loss. Sever cases can lead to inflammation of the brain and death.
7. Chikungunya Fever -
Although most infections of Chikungunya Fever occur in Africa, the virus is becoming a global threat because it is carried by the Asian Tiger Mosquito which is a mosquito specie that frequents Asia, Europe, the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Chikungunya Fever is transmitted though mosquito bites by a female mosquito that is infected with the virus. Sickness from Chikungunya Fever usually lasts for 3-7 days and symptoms include sudden fever, joint pain, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, lower back pain, and rash.
8. Heartworm Disease -
Heartworm disease is a mosquito-borne virus that infects pets. Many common types of mosquitoes carry the Heartworm disease throughout the United States and for dogs, this disease can be life threatening. Animals are infected with the Heartworm disease through a bite from a mosquito that has the roundworm virus. Once the mosquito bites the dog, the worms burrow into its skin and eventually end up in dog's heart. There are several medications that can treat and prevent Heartworm Disease.
How to Prevent Mosquito Diseases
Although getting rid of mosquitoes might seem pretty close to impossible, there are ways that you can gain mosquito control over your property and various items available on the market that should be taken on family camping trips, sporting events and other outdoor activities to protect yourself and loved ones against mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes breed in stagnate water found in areas such as inside of old tires, in swamps, pools, on tarps, in empty flower planters, rain gutters, open boats, bird baths, rain barrels and in barbecues. Emptying any objects that have still water in them will eliminate mosquito breeding areas around your property.
Controlling the mosquito population on your property is most effectively done with a mosquito trap. Mosquito traps like the Mosquito Magnet and SkeeterVac are proven mosquito control systems that not only greatly reduce current mosquito infestations, but also prevent future mosquito generations from becoming a nuisance by killing female mosquitoes and interrupting the breeding cycle.
The AllClear Mosquito Mister misting systems are also an effective method of mosquito control among homeowners and business owners. Mosquito misting systems spray concentrated mosquito repellents in 2, 4, or 6 hour intervals. This concentrated mosquito repellent is designed to repel and kill mosquitoes on contact.
Other forms of mosquito control include mosquito repellents, mosquito sprays like the Mosquito Barrier, and a great new product from ThermaCell which is a portable mosquito repellent that is great for the backyard, camping, fishing, etc.
Protecting yourself from mosquito bites shouldn't end at your backyard! If you are going on a camping trip, a hike through the woods, a canoe trip, sporting event, or have any other outdoor activity planned, be sure to pack your mosquito spray. There are many lotions, sprays, and oils available on the market that will effectively repel mosquitoes, prevent mosquito bites, and help you gain mosquito control.