The Risk of Mosquito-Borne Diseases and How to Prevent Them



Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of being bitten by a mosquito can attest to the unpleasantness of the experience. You swat at your body and feel as though you’re being eaten alive as you try to scratch away at the bites on your skin. Unfortunately, those little pests are more than just an annoyance; they also spread diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus, which affect over 100 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Luckily, there are some steps you can take to prevent mosquito bites and protect yourself from these diseases…


What are mosquitos?

It’s likely that you’re aware that mosquitos can transmit the Zika virus, which has been responsible for an epidemic in many countries in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as locally transmitted cases. These mosquito-borne diseases can cause symptoms such as headache, fever, muscle pain, nausea, and rash. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have put the U.S. on high alert because they have recently found evidence of this disease being present in Florida. The CDC advises individuals who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant not to travel to areas where there is a risk of contracting Zika, including some parts of the US Virgin Islands. They also advise that women who are currently pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not have unprotected sex with someone who lives in or has traveled to an area where there is a risk of contracting Zika.


Identify mosquito problems in your area

Mosquitoes carry diseases such as Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and more. In the U.S., these illnesses have only recently been a problem but they have a devastating effect worldwide. It is important for people who live in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent to take measures to avoid them as much as possible.

There are steps that people can take both inside and outside their homes to decrease the number of mosquitoes around them. Inside the home, it is best to keep doors and windows closed during daytime hours when mosquitoes are most active. Keeping yards free of standing water or keeping lights off at night will also help keep mosquitoes away from your property. Other options include wearing long sleeves, pants, hats, and shoes outdoors at dusk or dawn when most mosquito bites occur. If you do get bitten by a mosquito, use bug spray or lotion with DEET as soon as possible before any symptoms start appearing!


What are the most dangerous mosquito-transmitted diseases?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most dangerous mosquito-transmitted diseases are:

Dengue Fever – Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and generalized pain in joints or muscles. The illness is not contagious from person to person. It’s spread by female mosquitoes that are infected with the dengue virus. Malaria – Symptoms include fever followed by flu-like symptoms such as sweating chills and body aches. The disease can be fatal if untreated. Spread by anopheles mosquitos who become infected when they bite people who have malaria. Yellow Fever – Symptoms include fever, joint pain, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Spread through bites from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which carry the yellow fever virus.


Taking Precautions

Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is the most important step you can take to prevent getting a mosquito-borne disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following precautions:

– Use an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin for protection against mosquitoes when you are outdoors. Cover your skin with long pants and long sleeves when possible. Children younger than 2 months should not be exposed to DEET. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be applied directly to the skin but inhaled through the nose as directed. Repellents containing picaridin should not be applied under clothing because it may cause irritation to sensitive areas such as the eyes and mouth.

– Be aware that bed nets treated with permethrin will repel mosquitoes if they do get past other protections. – If you live in a place where there are infected mosquitoes and someone in your household has had malaria, talk to your doctor about whether you need antimalarial drugs as well. – Always wear shoes outside to avoid contact with infected water (from puddles, animal drinking bowls, and birdbaths) which might contain larval stage parasites that could mature into adult insects capable of transmitting diseases.

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