Mosquitoes: Not Just Biting Pests

Usually, we think of mosquitoes as pesky nuisances, but the truth is that they can be both downright dangerous and helpful at the same time. Some of the most common illnesses caused by mosquitoes include dengue fever, malaria, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. 

Dengue is carried by mosquitoes in tropical and subtropical areas of the world and causes fever and flu-like symptoms. The most severe form of dengue fever causes excessive bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and death (“Dengue Fever” Mayo Clinic). 

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite transferred to humans by infected mosquitoes that have deadly consequences. “In 2019, an estimated 229 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 409,000 people died” (“Malaria” CDC). Luckily for residents of the United States, a project begun In 1942 by the Office of Malaria Control in War Areas (predecessor of the CDC) was established to address the problem of malaria and other similar diseases. These efforts were so successful that in 1951, malaria was basically eliminated as a disease transmitted here in the United States, though about 2000 people are diagnosed with it each year who have recently traveled to areas where malaria is common (“Elimination of Malaria in the United States” CDC). 

Currently, West Nile virus (WNV) is the most prominent mosquito-borne disease in the continental U. S. There are currently no vaccines to prevent WNV. Most people who are infected do not show symptoms or feel sick, though about 20% of those infected develop a fever and other symptoms. Approximately 1 of every 150 people infected with WNV develop a serious illness which in some cases leads to death (“West Nile Virus”

Worldwide, the virus most frequently spread to humans through mosquito bites is Zika. Most commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas, humans infected with Zika show no signs or symptoms. Those who do show symptoms typically experience mild fever, muscle pain, and/or rash, though in some cases victims experience brain or nervous system complications (“Zika Virus” Mayo Clinic). Another concern related to Zika virus involves women infected during pregnancy. Contraction of the Zika virus increases the likelihood of miscarriage for the mother as well as serious birth defects in infants including microcephaly (“Zika Virus” Mayo Clinic). 

So is there anything redeemable about this annoying, disease-carrying menace? As a matter of fact, yes! Mosquitoes are important pollinators, and in the case of a few rare plants, no other insect will suffice. And not all mosquitoes bite and not all of the time. “It’s only when a female mosquito lays eggs does she seek a blood meal for the protein. Males feed only on flower nectar and never bite” (National Wildlife Federation). 

Mosquitoes also serve as a food source for many animals including birds, dragonflies, turtles, bats, and more (National Wildlife Federation). 

So how do we let these annoying insects do their job without becoming their feast? For starters, we can decrease the population around our homes by eliminating standing water where they like to lay eggs (State of Connecticut Mosquito Management Program). We can also try to schedule our outdoor time when mosquitoes are less active. While there are a few species of mosquito that stay out all day, most are at their greatest activity around dawn and dusk (State of Connecticut). 

The most common mosquito deterrent people look to solve the pesky problem is a repellant. Those with ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus have been shown to be effective (State of Connecticut). Permethrin, a medication used to treat scabies and lice, is known to repel and kill mosquitoes and as an added bonus will also protect you from ticks (State of Connecticut). It is important if you use permethrin to be sure to apply it only to clothing. If it comes in contact with your skin, it is likely to cause burning and itching. It should also be kept away from pets (State of Connecticut).

At Waitte’s Insurance Agency, we want you to have a fun, healthy, happy summer. Give us a call when you are ready to discuss your unique insurance needs. 

"Dengue Fever" Mayo Clinic
"Elimination of Malaria in the United States" CDC
"Malaria" CDC
"Mosquito Control" Environmental Protection Agency
National Wildlife Federation
State of Connecticut Mosquito Management Program
"West Nile Virus"
"Zika Virus" Mayo Clinic