Mosquitos are one of the most dangerous pests in the world. This is because they’re capable of spreading a variety of deadly diseases through their bite. Annually, mosquitoes are responsible for over 700 hundred deaths per year. Most of these deaths (around 600,000) are from malaria.
In the United States, mosquito-borne diseases can cause hundreds of deaths each year. Here we will provide an overview of three major diseases that mosquitoes carry in the United States and the unique dangers each one poses.
The West Nile Virus
The West Nile Virus is one of the most recognizable diseases carried by mosquitoes. The first human cases in the United States began in 1999. Since that time millions of people have become infected by the disease and likely, most of them had no idea. This is because the West Nile Virus usually isn’t fatal. In fact, most people who contract the virus will not show any symptoms at all. The majority of the people who do will only exhibit flu-like symptoms such as sore joints, headaches, vomiting, rashes, and etc.
It is important to recognize that there is a real potential for this illness to become deadly. And in truth, a small percentage of people will develop a variety of severe symptoms as a result of the West Nile virus attacking their nervous system. These symptoms can include encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain, and meningitis which is the swelling of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord. In these severe cases, the West Nile virus can cause vision loss, disorientation, paralysis, and coma. If a patient develops these severe symptoms there is a 1 in 10 that they will die.
The Zika Virus
The Zika virus was the cause of a lot of anxiety several years ago when an outbreak of the virus reached the continental United States and US territories Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Zika cases are rarely fatal but it is capable of causing a lot of harm. What aids the spread of Zika is that it can be transmitted not just by mosquitos but by sexual contact. And since the symptoms of Zika are very mild if exhibited at all, it is possible for people to unwittingly transmit the disease to their sexual partners.
In adult humans, the Zika virus can cause classic flu-like symptoms for about a week. This includes joint pain, reddening of the eyes, muscle pain and headaches. The real danger from Zika, however, is what it does to unborn children. Zika can cause microcephaly and other birth defects in children during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a birth defect that causes an infant’s head to be smaller than it should be. This can cause a number of things such as brain damage, clubfoot, as well as various eye problems.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
The final mosquito-transmitted disease we’ll take a look at today is Eastern Equine Encephalitis or EEE. EEE is a serious virus which mosquitos have been known to spread to horses, humans and other mammals. Thankfully the virus can’t spread among other mammals or humans. Like the other ailments on this list, it’s rare that any noticeable symptoms arise and most people have no idea they’re infected. But in serious cases, EEE can cause encephalitis and all of the harm that goes with it, including high fever, chills, severe headaches, coma, and death. EEE is one of the worst mosquito-transmitted diseases in the world. And while cases of it are rare in the United States it has a 33% mortality rate and is capable of causing serious brain damage in survivors.
How to Protect Yourself
It is important to note that none of these diseases have cures or vaccines. Except in the case of EEE where horses can be vaccinated against the virus. That means the only way to protect yourself is through prevention. And because each of these diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes, it makes it imperative to prevent bites from these insects. So here are some tips to help reduce your exposure to them:
- Wear long sleeves and insect repellent whenever you’re in an area prone to mosquitos.
- Avoid going outside during times where mosquitoes are most active–dawn and dusk.
- Hire a pest control company to survey your property and surrounding area for any places mosquitoes may be breeding.
- Use a mosquito net while camping
- Remove any standing water from around or inside your home since these are common breeding areas for mosquitos.
Following these tips will greatly reduce the chances of you being bitten by a mosquito and therefore reduce your chances of contracting any of these diseases. But if you do think you may have contracted a disease from a mosquito bite do not hesitate to act. In the majority of cases, you will only be in for a few days of misery but there’s always a chance it could be far worse. Seeking treatment from a trained medical technician can make all of the difference.
Michael Rayzer graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2008 with a BA in English Language and Literature, and has worked for 10 years as a content writer. Mike currently performs freelance writing for Mosquito Tek of Virginia Beach writing about mosquito extermination and topics related to mosquito control.