Mosquitos are a summer nuisance that no one likes to deal with. They are found all around the world, and they can breed just about anywhere they find standing water.

These pests not only bite and leave itchy, red welts, but they can also be dangerous. Mosquitos are known to harbor and transmit many diseases. While some diseases are more common than others, they all have the potential to be deadly. Here are 11 diseases carried and transmitted by mosquitos and why mosquito control is so important.

1. Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Triple E is a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord of its victim, the results of which can be deadly. However, most people infected with Triple E will not experience symptoms. Those who do feel the effects of the disease will encounter flu-like symptoms within the first few days. Once inside, the virus replicates and travels through the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, about 5% of people may develop a rare infection that could turn deadly if the virus crosses the brain-blood barrier. This results in the most severe symptoms: swelling and inflammation of the brain. This severe case is encephalitis. Though people rarely contract it, it can have fatal results. 30% of people who contract the serious form of Triple E will die or experience neurological problems permanently.

2. West Nile Virus

West Nile is a viral infection carried in bird blood and the most commonly carried by mosquitos. This disease multiplies in human blood and heads to the brain.

Like encephalitis, West Nile affects the central nervous system and causes inflammation. It causes high fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and a stiff neck. Those who contract this disease can experience convulsions, coma, or even death. Infected individuals can experience permanent neurological damage. 1 in 150 infected with West Nile Virus experience severe symptoms.

3. Zika Virus

Since February 1st, 2016, the Zika Virus has spread across the US and become a public health emergency. Zika can cause a rare birth defect called microcephaly – a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads and development issues. This disease can be transmitted sexually or through a mosquito bite. and there is no cure.

4. Elephantiasis

Mosquitos carrying elephantiasis can be found in the tropics, subtropics, and 73 countries. This disease is painfully disfiguring and can potentially cause permanent disability. The result can have devastating physical, mental, social, and financial issues. The swelling is intensely painful and can have life-long consequences.

5. Japanese Encephalitis

Mosquitos that carry Japanese Encephalitis are found in marshes, standing waters, and rice fields. Humans contract this disease through a bite; the symptoms can be extremely mild or cause serious damage. This disease attacks the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. The severity of the reaction depends on how the body reacts to the bite.

6. Dengue Fever

This tropical virus can be transmitted about a week after a mosquito bites an infected person. One mosquito can easily transfer the disease to a vast number of victims. The virus quickly multiplies and damages cells. The symptoms begin with a high fever and include headaches, back pain, joint pain, rashes, and eye pain. The fever lasts for about a week. Infected people can also experience bruising and bleeding. Dengue fever can be fatal if not treated.

7. Chikungunya

Chikungunya is a pathogen virus transmitted by mosquitos. Found originally in the Caribbean, it has been diagnosed in 35 states in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. This dangerous disease has no cure, but it is not fatal. Symptoms of chikungunya start with intense joint pain. Victims experience sudden fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, lower back pain, and rash. Again, while it is not necessarily fatal, it will incapacitate those who contract it.

8. Yellow Fever

Flavivirus is located in Africa and South America. Once transmitted, it incubates in the body three to six days before symptoms show. Victims experience fever, chills, headache, and nausea. Following a short remission, the disease will return with more severe symptoms: nosebleeds, bloody vomit, abdominal pain. Yellow fever can be deadly. No known treatment exists aside from vaccination.

9. Rift Valley Fever

Rift Valley Fever is an acute, fever-inducing viral disease. This sickness affects both humans and animals. It usually takes two to six days for the infection to take hold. Victims experience general weakness, back pain, and dizziness as the sickness develops. More serious symptoms include ocular disease, encephalitis, or hemorrhagic fever.

10. Malaria

Female mosquitos pick up parasites, Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium Vivax, by feeding on infected humans. The parasites develop within 10-18 days and are passed on through the mosquito’s saliva. This disease feeds on blood cells and moves into the liver. Victims experience fever, chills, sweating, headaches, and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, malaria can cause kidney failure and death.

11. Ross River Disease

Those infected with Ross River Disease may not show symptoms right away. In fact, 55%-57% of infected individuals don’t have any symptoms. Those who do experience symptoms can experience swelling, joint pain, stiffness, and tiredness. Among the milder infections transmitted by mosquitos, patients recover from this sickness within a few weeks.

Signs that a Mosquito Bite Is Dangerous

Unfortunately, telling the difference between an infected mosquito and an innocuous one can be difficult until it’s too late. Here are some signs that it’s time to see a healthcare provider:

  • The bite becomes extremely swollen and warm, with red streaks emanating from it.
  • You develop a fever or headache.
  • You have joint pain or body aches.

Fortunately, most mosquitos in the United States don’t transmit disease, especially many of the ones on the list.

How to Prevent Mosquitos

Mosquito bites can be so much more than an annoying itch to scratch. They can potentially be deadly. With proper repellants and thorough care, you can stay safe.

Some mosquito prevention tips include:

  • Remove all standing water, including in bird baths, old tires, or gutters.
  • Use a high-speed fan outside that disorients mosquitos.
  • Apply a repellent with DEET or Picaridin.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves.
  • Light a citronella candle or use essential oils, such as lavender.
  • Plant citronella, marigolds, or lavender on your property.
  • Keep your yard trimmed and tidy.
  • Hang up mosquito nets and install screens on doors and windows.

When mosquito prevention doesn’t work, you’ll need to turn to mosquito yard sprays. While many are effective, the application is key. Contact a local exterminator who can apply a routine yard spray around your property to keep mosquitos away.

This summer, take steps to protect yourself and your family from potential diseases. Perform regular maintenance on your property and keep pests out. If you think you may have a mosquito problem, consider reaching out to a professional pest control expert.

FAQs: Diseases Carried by Mosquitos

What should I do if I suspect I have a mosquito-borne illness?

If you suspect you have a mosquito-borne illness, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms can vary depending on the specific illness but may include fever, headache, body aches, rash, and fatigue. Inform your healthcare provider about any recent travel to areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are prevalent.

What are the long-term health effects of mosquito-borne diseases?

The long-term health effects of mosquito-borne diseases can vary widely depending on the specific illness and individual factors. For example, dengue fever and chikungunya, may cause lingering joint pain and fatigue that can last for weeks or months after the acute phase of the illness has resolved. Others, like malaria, may lead to complications affecting various organs if not promptly treated. In severe cases, certain mosquito-borne diseases can be fatal. Long-term effects may also include neurological complications, developmental issues (in the case of congenital Zika syndrome), and chronic conditions in some instances.

Are certain individuals more susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases?

Yes, certain individuals may be more susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases due to factors such as age, underlying health conditions, immune status, and genetic predispositions. For example, infants, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems are generally more vulnerable to severe complications from mosquito-borne illnesses. Additionally, individuals who live or travel to regions where these diseases are endemic and lack access to adequate healthcare and preventive measures may face a higher risk of infection and its consequences.