Being stung by a mosquito certainly isn’t fun - once stuck, you’re in for at least a few days of redness, itching and swelling. However, in some cases, being stung by mosquitoes isn’t just irritating. Because mosquitoes are known vectors that carry several different infectious diseases, they can be dangerous as well!
In this article, let’s take a look at some of the different diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes, where these infections are most likely to occur and how you can protect yourself from these blood-thirsty pests.
Mosquitoes (in this case, the genus Anopheles in particular) can carry parasites, which they pick up from one host and transmit to another as they feed. One such parasite is malaria, which is one of the leading causes of premature deaths around the world. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 2 million deaths each year can be attributed to mosquito-induced malaria!
And although malaria isn’t as common in the US as it is in other regions of the world, it’s wise to take a few precautions if you anticipate traveling through Sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia, where the disease is more prevalent. Taking prophylactic medications and sleeping under the cover of mosquito netting are two important steps you can take to protect yourself from this disease.
Yellow fever is classified as an acute viral hemorrhagic disease, with symptoms presenting as fever, nausea, body aches and more. It is primarily transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito (although other species can carry the disease as well), and is found most frequently in the tropical regions of South America and Africa.
Although yellow fever can be extremely dangerous, a vaccine is widely available that prevents infection by this disease. Given the climatic conditions of the United States, it’s typically only recommended to those who will be traveling to regions of the world where yellow fever is more common. Once vaccinated, recipients can expect to be protected against yellow fever for up to 10 years.
Another viral disease that can be transmitted by mosquitoes is dengue fever, which is also transmitted by the Aedes genus of mosquito. In many ways, dengue fever is more dangerous than yellow fever, as there is no vaccine to prevent infection from the virus. Symptoms of dengue fever can include fever, headache and joint pains - in fact, the disease is often referred to as “breakbone fever” due to the excruciating body pains it can produce.
Because there is no vaccine that protects against dengue fever, preventing infection relies more on practicing personal safety measures, including the regular use of a mosquito repellant using DEET, employing mosquito netting over beds and wearing pants and long sleeved shirts to prevent exposing skin to mosquitoes.
If you live in the United States, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll come into contact with these diseases - the odds are pretty slim that the mosquito hovering annoyingly over your patio dinner plate will transmit anything more than an itchy red bump. However, if you plan to travel overseas to regions where these diseases are endemic, it’s worth taking the proper precaution to protect yourself from the threats these mosquitoes represent.