There is no doubt that mosquitoes can be annoying pests that make outdoor activities less pleasant. However, mosquitoes can also cause illnesses in humans who are unlucky enough to become a meal for these tiny bloodsuckers. When feeding, a mosquito that is carrying certain viruses or parasites can pass them along to the human host. Fortunately, not every mosquito in the United States is infected, so most mosquito bites do not cause a serious illness. However, worldwide, deaths caused by mosquito-borne illnesses are estimated to exceed 900,000 every year, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Asia. The availability of vaccines against certain mosquito-borne diseases, initiatives to control mosquitoes and sanitation efforts have helped keep mosquito-related deaths in the United States comparatively low, but the nation has experienced its share of outbreaks.
The Deadly History of the Mosquito
The mosquito has been called the deadliest animal in the world. Some researchers claim that mosquito-borne diseases have killed more humans than the combined death toll of all wars ever waged. Other researchers state that more than half of all humans who have ever lived died from a disease contracted from a mosquito bite.
Mosquitoes are known vectors for a variety of diseases, including malaria, yellow fever, certain strains of encephalitis, dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika and West Nile fever. Malaria and yellow fever kill the most people globally, but in recent years, there have been few reported cases of these diseases in the United States. West Nile virus and Zika are of greater concern to American health officials. Although Zika is rarely fatal, it can cause birth defects if a pregnant woman contracts the disease; West Nile virus has been responsible for approximately 2,000 deaths since 1999.
Between 1693 and 1905, yellow fever is estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people in the United States. Malaria was even more widespread, killing an estimated 10,000 soldiers during the Civil War alone and 60,000 soldiers during World War II. Some researchers place the total number of American deaths from malaria at more than 1.5 million between 1700 and 1950.
Although most of the major mosquito-borne diseases have been brought under control in the United States, during the 20th century and into the 21st century, new illnesses found their way into the country. One such disease was the type of encephalitis that was first identified in the St. Louis area during the 1930s; an average of 128 new cases are still reported every year. Locally acquired Zika was not found in the United States until 2016, and West Nile virus was first discovered in America around 1999.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Although the odds are in your favor when it comes to the likelihood of contracting a mosquito-borne disease, it is always better to err on the side of caution when your health or the health of your family is at risk. Avoiding the outdoors during times when mosquitoes are the most active, ensuring that window and door screens are intact, using an insect repellent containing DEET and dressing so that your arms and legs are completely covered are some steps that you can take to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
However, the best protection is to call an experienced, reliable pest control company. The technician can inspect your property to locate potential breeding sites, recognize and address high-risk areas, advise you on steps you can take to mitigate your risks and provide targeted treatment of existing populations of mosquitoes.
If you are having a problem with mosquitoes or other pests, contact Accel Pest and Termite Control for a free quote. You can either submit your request online or call us.