Mosquitoes are tiny flies who feed on the blood of many species. The amount they drink is nominal and does not affect the victim, but their saliva can cause irritation, itching and rashes. But what makes the mosquito such a concern is not the rash they cause but the fact that they play a huge role in spreading harmful diseases. This makes them the deadliest animal in the world but there are many ways you can protect yourself from their bite.
There are many diseases and infections that mosquitoes can transmit and many of them can be very dangerous to people. Zika virus is getting the most attention right now, but there are some others that are important to know about.
- Malaria is a disease that can cause headaches, fatigue, fever and vomiting. Seizures, coma and even death can occur in severe cases or when the infected person also has another underlying condition such as HIV. It is especially dangerous to pregnant women and can cause infant mortality, stillbirths, abortion and low birth weight. Malaria is most common in tropical and subtropical countries such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is more common in poverty stricken areas. There is no effective vaccine for malaria.
- Yellow Fever is a viral disease that can cause headaches, nausea, fever, chills, loss of appetite and muscle pain. Most cases are a mild infection that can last for three to four days but about 15 percent of cases can enter a toxic second phase that can damage the liver and GI tract. The overall mortality of yellow fever rate is 3%. There is an effective vaccine against yellow fever and is recommended to anyone who travels in affected areas.
- West Nile Virus is a virus that only causes symptoms in approximately 20% of cases. Symptoms are generally flu like. Less than 1% of infected persons can develop serious, sometimes fatal, neurological symptoms.
- Dengue Fever is caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms can include headaches, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, vomiting and skin rash and generally lasts two to seven days. 80% of people infected have mild or no symptoms. Only about 5% of cases have severe illness and very rarely is it life threatening.
Zika Virus Disease
The disease caused by Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda. It generally causes very mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes and the symptoms generally last just a few days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people do not get sick enough to go to a hospital and it is very rarely fatal. Because of such mild symptoms, only 14 cases had ever been documented prior to 2007 and had been detected only in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
In 2015, the first confirmed case of Zika virus was discovered in Brazil. Since then, it has spread rapidly throughout Brazil. It wasn’t until April of 2016 that it was confirmed that Zika causes severe brain defects such as microcephaly.
Zika virus is attracted to brain cells, killing them and stopping brain growth. When the brain stops growing, there is no pressure on the brain to increase the skull size, so the skull stays small while the skin continues to grow. So the baby is born with a tiny head and lots of wrinkles at the back of the neck.
Not only does Zika affect the brain cells, but it also attacks the placenta, reducing the blood exchange between mother and baby. This slows down growth and also hinders brain growth.
Many babies born with Zika will die in infancy, and the majority will have severe long term developmental issues such as the following:
- Developmental delays
- Intellectual disability
- Movement and balance problems
- Difficulty swallowing and eating
- Hearing and vision loss
How to Protect Yourself
There are many ways to protect yourself from mosquito bites and consequently mosquito borne illnesses. The more steps you are able to take, the lower your chance of being bit and getting infected.
- Clothing – wear long sleeved shirts, pants and socks. This reduces the places that mosquitoes can bite.
- Indoors: stay in places with air conditioning and screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitos out.
- Outdoors: use mosquito bed netting to protect yourself.
- Control Mosquitoes at Home
- Prevent standing water whenever possible. This is where mosquitoes lay eggs. For anything that keeps water, empty and scrub it out once a week or cover with mesh smaller than an adult mosquito. If you cannot cover or empty out, use a product such as Mosquito Dunks to kill mosquito larvae.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors. We carry many screen windows and doors, and screen to repair it yourself!
- Use a mosquito trap or insecticide where mosquitoes rest. The Mosquito Magnet is a great way to kill mosquitoes in yards up to one acre! We also carry mosquito yard sprays, propane foggers and electric bug zappers.
- Prevent Bites on Yourself and Children
- Use an insect repellent on yourself with ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535 , eucalyptus or para-methane-diol. If using with sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and then insect repellent. We carry a wide selection of OFF! brand repellents for the whole family! Be sure to follow age restrictions for any insect repellent and do not put repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth or irritated skin.
- Use insect repellent in an area you are going to be spending, such as a patio. Citronella candles and Tiki torches are great ways to repel mosquitoes!
- Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting and put your child in long sleeve shirts and pants.
Be sure to follow the suggestions above and you can spend time outside without worrying about mosquitoes! Stop in any of our stores or check out our online store for a wide selection of mosquito and bug control!
Doucleff, Michaeleen. “How The Zika Virus Damages The Brain.” NPR. N.p., 11 May 2016. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/05/11/477648872/how-the-zika-virus-damages-the-brain>.
“Facts about Microcephaly.” CDC. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html>.
“Zika & Pregnancy.” CDC. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html>.