We all know that mosquitoes are pesky little bugs that leave uncomfortable bite marks and lengthy periods of itching. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are also a very likely vehicle for transmitting several serious diseases all around the world. Thanks to modern medicine and technological advances, the United States has a significant level of control over the most common diseases that are transmitted via mosquitoes, but the methods of preventing mosquito borne illnesses are not perfect. Humans and various other animals like dogs, horses, birds, and cats are still at risk for West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Dengue, and several specific types of encephalitis that use mosquitoes as vectors.
West Nile Virus has been around for more than 80 years, and scientists have pinpointed more than 70 variations of evolutionarily similar strains. Between the years of 2002 and 2004, there was an epidemic rise in WNV cases with infections being reported in humans and several different animals, even a crocodile!
Dengue fever is most common in tropical geographic locations, and the most typical symptoms associated with this mosquito transmitted illness include headaches, fever, skin rash, and joint or muscular pain. There is currently no available vaccine for Dengue, but luckily, the mild cases are relatively easy to treat.
Yellow fever is most prevalent in areas of Africa and America, near the equator, but luckily, a vaccination to prevent this disease has drastically reduced its occurrence. In fact, travel regulations require that people visiting areas of the world that are susceptible to this sickness get their vaccination before going.
Encephalitis – there are several different types of encephalitis that are triggered by mosquito transmitted infection and are primarily distinguished by the particular species of the mosquito that served as a vehicle. Encephalitis is essentially inflammation of the brain and the severity of this sickness can range from mild flu-like symptoms to coma and even death.
Heartworms – Also known as Dirofilaria immitis to the scientific community, this round worm parasite uses the mosquito for a significant portion of the worm lifecycle. Heartworms are a common ailment in dogs and cats, as well as other non-domesticated animals. Although there is no cure for animals that have been diagnosed with heartworms, medication may be used to help prevent and reduce the symptoms.
Even though modern medicine has provided vaccines and treatment options for mosquito borne illnesses, the most practical way to reduce and prevent these transmissions is by eliminating standing water and other opportunities for mosquitoes to breed and reproduce. It is also a wise practice to use bug repellants when spending an excessive amount of time outdoors.