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Mosquito Borne Illnesses

Mosquitos might seem like an annoying yet relatively harmless part of warm-weather enjoyment, but think again. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mosquitos are “one of the deadliest animals in the world.” They can carry and transmit various diseases to humans and are responsible for millions of deaths each year. Mosquito-transmitted malaria caused more than 430,000 deaths in 2015, and there are many other potentially fatally diseases that they can spread.

Dengue fever is one such disease that is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. More than half of the world’s inhabitants live in the tropical areas where this mosquito is found. The frequency of dengue has increased by 30 times in the last 30 years, with more countries reporting outbreaks. Although Zika and West Nile Virus have dominated the news for the past few years, there are several other illnesses which are of great concern, depending on where you live and the mosquito species you encounter.  

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More Common Mosquito Borne Diseases, Regions and Symptoms

There are different classifications of illnesses spread by mosquitos. Viral diseases include dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika fever. They’re typically transmitted by the Aedes aegypti species (yellow fever mosquito), which is found in tropical and subtropical regions in South America and Africa. However, they’re also seen in more temperate regions in warmer months. Protozoa is the type of mosquito borne disease that is responsible for the malaria parasite. These are the most common mosquito-spread diseases.

Chikungunya

This illness is most often spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos, which are also carriers of dengue virus. There have been chikungunya outbreaks in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific and Indian oceans. The only time it was found in the Americas was in the Caribbean in 2013. There is no vaccine nor treatment available. Common symptoms include fever and joint pain, and other symptoms may include muscle pain, joint swelling, rash or headache.

Dengue

The W.H.O. estimates that 40 percent of the global community is at risk for dengue fever. It is a leading cause of illness and death in tropic and subtropic areas, with up to 400 million affected annually. Dengue is commonly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and less commonly, the Aedes albopictus. There is no vaccine available, and early identification and treatment lowers the risk of complications and death. It is commonly seen in Puerto Rico, Latin America, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, but is very rare in the Continental U.S.

Heartworm

This illness can be life-threatening for dogs and it also affects cats, raccoons and foxes. It is transmitted when the animal is bitten by a mosquito that carries the worm’s larvae. Humans are an unsuitable host, so if deposited on the skin of a person, the worm will typically die. Symptoms of heartworms in a dog include an allergic reaction, lethargy, weight loss, difficulty in breathing, a bulging chest and a dry cough.

La Crosse Encephalitis Virus (LACV) 

This disease, spread by mosquitos, primarily occurs in the upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic and South. Most infected people show no symptoms. For those who become ill, they may experience headache, nausea, vomiting, fever and tiredness. In extreme cases, it can attack the nervous system and may involve encephalitis. Children are at the greatest risk.

Malaria

Responsible for more than a million deaths annually, with 300-500 million cases reported, malaria is mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa. It is transmitted by the female anopheles species (malaria mosquito). Although most common in Africa and parts of South Asia, this species of mosquito does exist in more temperate locations in the U.S. and Europe during the summer months. Approximately 1,500 cases are diagnosed in the U.S., mostly found in those who have visited malaria-prone regions. Symptoms are flu-like, such as high fever, chills, vomiting and headache. Malaria can be fatal, if not treated right away.

Saint Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLEV)

Most common in eastern and central U.S. states, people infected with SLEV do not become ill most of the time. For those that do, early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. The illness can become more severe in older adults (encephalitis, inflammation of the brain) and in some cases, disability or death may result. Treatment is based on symptoms, but there is no treatment for SLEV.

Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE)

This is a viral disease that is transmitted by mosquitos to horses and people by the Culex species of mosquito. It occurs on the West Coast, including the Los Angeles area. The virus attacks the central nervous symptoms, and the illness is similar to SLE.

West Nile Virus (WNV)

Cases of West Nile Virus are regularly reported in both humans and animals across the U.S. More than 43 mosquito species nationwide have been infected, and the virus can be transmitted by blood or by organ transplant, though far less frequently. Although there is a small risk of getting sick from this virus (20 percent of those infected have symptoms), in certain cases it can be fatal. The mild symptoms include headache, body aches, fever and sometimes swollen lymph glands and a skin rash.

Zika Virus 

Declared a worldwide public health emergency by the W.H.O. in 2016, Zika is usually transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito, and possibly the Asian tiger mosquito, which is also found in the U.S. Although most of those infected (up to 80 percent) either don’t have symptoms or don’t realize they’ve been infected, the presence of Zika in a pregnant woman can cause microcephaly, a rare birth defect. Mild symptoms include a rash, slight fever, conjunctivitis and joint pain.

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Mosquito Borne Diseases?

The best way to protect yourself against mosquito borne diseases is to either avoid areas where mosquitos are most active or to protect yourself by wearing protective clothing and insect repellent. In your home or business environment, this isn’t always possible, which is why an effective mosquito treatment service from MosquitoNix® is the best solution.  

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