Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Mosquito-Borne Illnesses: How You Get Them and How to Avoid Them

by Samantha Greenbaum 

For many people, mosquitoes may seem little more than a summer nuisance, a pesky insect that causes itchy welts onmosquito a person’s skin. However, the real danger of mosquitoes lies in their ability to transmit disease; the itchy bites they leave in doing so are secondary.

What Attracts Mosquitoes to Certain People?

Some people can sit outside for hours without a bite; others are bitten so much they feel like the hottest restaurant in town. For years, scientists have sought to find out why this is. According to New York University, they have concluded that a person’s propensity for being a mosquito’s favorite food comes down to several factors, including blood type (type O produces more odorant markers, making mosquitoes more drawn to people who have it), the amount of carbon dioxide emitted (the more emitted, the more attracted mosquitoes become), being pregnant (pregnancy results in the emission of higher CO2 levels), body temperature (mosquitoes are drawn to heat), and drinking alcohol (a beer or two makes a person much more likely to be bitten).

There may be other things that entice mosquitoes to bite, such as wearing dark colors and using perfume or cologne.

What are the Types of Diseases Spread By Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes have the ability to transmit all sorts of diseases. These include the West Nile Virus (which can cause fever, meningitis, and central nervous system complications); malaria (which can cause fever, headache, and vomiting); Dengue Fever (which can cause severe headache, high fever, vomiting, and pain behind the eyes); and encephalitis (which can cause flu-like symptoms, headache, seizures, and brain inflammation).

The diseases mosquitoes carry are influenced by geography. For example, yellow fever is virtually nonexistent in the United States, but much more common in areas of South America and Africa. Mosquitoes are more likely to be found in areas with stagnant water, such as near lakes or ponds, because this type of environment is required for them to breed.

Diseases that are caused by mosquitoes are treatable, but they are also dangerous; according to the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, mosquitoes kill more people than any other creature. Every year, close to 4 million people die from illnesses they transmit. Most of these deaths occur in areas of the world where modern medicine is not widely available. However, deaths from mosquito-borne illness do happen in the United States, especially in people with preexisting conditions and the elderly.

How Do Mosquitoes Spread Disease?

In order for mosquitoes to spread disease, they must pick up a virus by biting an infected person or animal. That virus reproduces inside the mosquito and is then passed on to another person through a bite. The viruses mosquitoes spread need to be somewhat stable in order to be transmitted. For this reason HIV, because it cannot survive outside the human body, can’t be spread through mosquito bites.

How Are Diseases Treated?

Diseases spread by mosquitoes are treated differently. Malaria, for example, is treated with anti-malaria medicine. Encephalitis caused by mosquitoes, on the other hand, doesn’t respond to medication. Instead, treatment involves supportive care and hospitalization to control the symptoms.

The type of treatment is also dependent on how the virus is affecting the individual. While some diseases will make certain people extremely sick, others may have a mild case or a case that produces no symptoms at all.

Mosquito-borne illness can be deadly. Thus, as they say, the best offense is typically a good defense: prevention of these illnesses is most ideal. Some of the ways these diseases can be prevented include wearing an insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, avoiding exercising outside, not wearing perfumes or colognes, and getting immunized against certain diseases that are prevalent in any area where you may be traveling.

About the Author

Samantha Greenbaum is a weekend hiker and health-conscious mother-of-two. If you are in need of mosquito control in MA, Samantha suggest checking out Bain Pest Control.

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