Nearly 1 million people die worldwide from mosquito-borne diseases every year, which makes the tiny mosquito the deadliest creature on the planet.
To add a little perspective:
- 50 people per year are killed by sharks
- 100 people per year are killed by wolves
- 1,000 people per year are killed by crocodiles
So why are mosquitoes so deadly?
Certain species of mosquitoes are vectors—meaning they can transmit disease from one animal or human to another. When one of these insects bites an infected human or animal, they pick up the virus or parasite, which doesn’t hurt the mosquito, but reproduces inside of it. That mosquito can then pass the virus or parasite on to other humans or animals when it goes for its next meal.
While the recent Zika outbreak has generated a lot of concern, more than a dozen other diseases are transmitted by the insects, causing illness and death in almost every part of the world. And with increases in urbanization and global travel, as well as climate change, mosquito-disease outbreaks continue to erupt in new regions.
Treating your property with a natural mosquito repellent like Mosquito Magician can help lower the risk of transmission. Mosquito Magician offers several solutions for administering this repellent.
Here’s a roundup of the five most prevalent mosquito-borne diseases.
Dengue is one of the most common diseases caused by mosquitoes, with 40 percent of the world’s population living in areas with dengue virus transmission.
In 2015 3.2 million cases of dengue fever were reported, up from 2.2 million in 2010. Prior to 1970, only 9 countries had experienced epidemics of severe dengue—today, it’s endemic in more than 100 countries.
Dengue fever is most common in Southeast Asia, and like the zika virus, is transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.35 million cases of dengue were reported in the Americas in 2015, 1,181 of them fatal.
The origin of the name dengue is unclear, but it could be derived from the Spanish word “dengue,” which means fastidious or careful and aptly describes the gait of a person suffering from the bone pain associated with dengue fever (this is also why the disease is sometimes called “breakbone fever”).
Dengue mostly causes flu-like symptoms, such as:
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Pain behind the eyes
- Muscle and joint paint
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen glands
About 25 percent of the time, dengue fever becomes severe—called dengue haemorrhagic fever, and of those cases, 2.5% are fatal.
Symptoms of severe dengue include:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Persistent vomiting
- Blood in vomit
- Rapid breathing
- Bleeding gums
A dengue vaccine is available for people living in endemic areas. For those who contract the mosquito-borne illness, early treatment (most importantly, maintaining the body’s volume of fluid) can decrease the likelihood of death to less than 1%.
Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) is also transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes. The disease was first discovered on the Makonde Plateau, the border area between Tanzania and Mozambique in Africa.
The name “chikungunya” comes from the Makonde word for “that which bends up”—a name the Makonde people coined to describe the stooped posture exhibited by those infected with the disease.
Unlike dengue or zika, most people (80-90%) infected with the chikungunya virus will exhibit symptoms, according to the American Mosquito Control Association.
Dengue symptoms, which can continue for long after the virus has been cleared from the body, include:
- Severe joint pain
Few cases of chikungunya result in death, but the symptoms can be crippling. While the joint pain can persist for weeks or months, most people who are infected feel better within about a week.
Outbreaks of chikungunya have occurred across Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as the Indian and Pacific Oceans. About 350,000 suspected cases have been reported in the western hemisphere—including the Caribbean—since 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
There is no vaccine or medicine to treat the virus. Infected people are advised to treat the symptoms by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated and taking acetaminophen (not aspirin or ibuprofen, which may increase bleeding risk) to reduce fever and pain.
Prevent transmission by avoiding mosquito bites. Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors and use an effective mosquito repellent like Mosquito Magician.
Malaria accounts for the vast majority of mosquito-related deaths, most of which (90%) occur in Sub-Sarahan Africa. The disease, which is transmitted by Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Anopheles freeborni and Anopheles pseudopunctipennis mosquitoes, can be traced as far back as 2,700 B.C.
The ancient Romans believed the disease was transmitted via “bad air” or “mal aria.” It wasn’t until the 1700s that people understood it was spread via mosquitoes.
The parasite was eliminated from the United States in the mid-1900s, thanks to the advent of DDT and antimalarial drugs, air conditioning and window screens. However, it can still be found in northern Europe.
Early Malaria symptoms can be mild and go unrecognized as malaria:
But if left untreated for 24 hours, malaria can progress, causing:
- Respiratory distress
- Seizures, coma and other neurologic abnormalities
- Organ failure
According to the WHO, 95 countries had ongoing malaria transmission and more than 400,000 people died from malaria in 2015.
Yellow fever, which is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, can be found in tropical and subtropical parts of Africa and South America.
Most people infected with yellow fever display no symptoms or only mild symptoms, which can include:
- Severe headache
- Back or body aches
In around 15% of people, yellow fever symptoms will disappear briefly before they present with a more severe form of the disease, with:
- High fever
- Jaundice (hence the name yellow fever)
- Bleeding (particularly from the gastrointestinal tract)
- Organ failure
Between 20 and 50% of people who develop the severe disease can die. Most people make a full recovery, but symptoms of weakness and fatigue may continue for several months.
A yellow fever vaccine exists, but there is no treatment for the disease. Like with chikungunya, infected people are advised to treat the symptoms with rest, fluids and pain relievers.
They should avoid aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, as they increase the risk of bleeding.
West Nile Virus
West Nile virus, which has been detected in all of the lower 48 states (not Hawaii or Alaska), is carried by 43 different types of mosquitoes, including the Aedes and Culex species. Since 1999, 44,000 cases have been reported in the United States, 1,900 of which have been fatal, according to the CDC.
Up to 80% of people infected with West Nile virus do not exhibit any symptoms, but about 1 in 5 people will develop:
- Body aches
- Joint pain
Most people make a complete recovery, although feelings of weakness can last for months.
In less than 1% of infected people, West Nile virus develops into a serious neurological disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis. Symptoms include:
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
- Tremors or seizures
About 10% of those who develop the neurological illness due to West Nile infection die.
Preventing Mosquito-Borne Diseases
The key to avoiding these and other mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent transmission.
Kill, repel and protect yourself against mosquitoes by:
- Treating your property with a natural mosquito repellent like Mosquito Magician regularly
- Emptying any outdoor items that hold standing water daily (pots, birdbaths, etc.)
- Wearing long sleeves and pants when outside, especially at dawn and dusk