The mosquito is a much feared insect in tropical countries. A mosquito bite can send a lot of us into a tizzy with unheard of complications making it one of the most dangerous creatures on this planet. Travellers are always at a greater risk of mosquito borne diseases and have to be familiar with symptoms, medications and vaccines. Every year, at least a million people die from mosquito-borne diseases and hundreds of millions go through extreme pain and suffering while battling mosquito-borne diseases. There are some countries which require travellers to clear vaccination protocols against some dangerous mosquito borne diseases. Some of the common mosquito borne diseases among humans, animals and birds are listed below –
- Malaria – Malaria still is a big public health concern because of its widespread nature which affects 350-500 million people every year. Generally, associated with poverty, this disease has a negative impact on economic development. This is transmitted by the infected female Anopheles mosquito; the typical symptoms of malaria are fever, fatigue, vomiting and headache. Extreme cases display yellow skin, seizures, coma and sometimes death.
- Dengue – This tropical disease is one of the fastest growing mosquito-borne diseases spread by two related species of mosquitoes, called Aedes aegypti (the Yellow Fever Mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian Tiger Mosquito). Very serious and fatal, this affects nearly 400 million every year causing 25,000 deaths and is a huge economic drain for many countries almost on par with Malaria.
- Chikungunya – Primarily found in Africa and Asia, this is a fast growing viral disease spread by the Aedes mosquito. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, rashes and joint pains which can last for months. In extreme cases, the infection may lead to encephalitis and then death. There is still no vaccine and specific treatment available to treat this except for minimising contact with an infected mosquito or patient. Large outbreaks of this painful and debilitating disease is becoming a major global concern and has forced many global health agencies to re-evaluate the enormous geographic threat chikungunya possesses.
- Yellow fever – A rare but rapidly spreading tropical illness that is prevalent in Africa and Latin America and also known as ‘Yellow Jack’ among European sailors, Yellow Fever is characterised by fever, muscle pain, headache, and nausea and vomiting. In most cases, patients improve and recover and symptoms vanish. But once the disease enters the toxic phase, there is the risk of death. There is no cure but vaccination is available which is again very expensive and not easily available should the disease reach other parts of the world.
- Zika virus – This is a recent virus found in 2015 and has been responsible for some major outbreaks in the world, especially in tropical countries.
- West Nile Virus (WNV) – This is a mosquito transmitted disease that infects people, horses and birds. There are no notable symptoms or flu conditions except the elderly who display severe illness.
- La Crosse Encephalitis (LAC) – This is a viral disease transmitted by the Tree Hole mosquito and brings about severe illness in children.
- Jamestown Canyon Virus (JCV) – This is very similar to La Crosse and is transmitted by different specie mosquitoes and so far has not caused any illness in humans in any age group.
- Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE) – This is caused and transmitted by the WNV virus to people, horses and birds.
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) – This is a rare, painful and debilitating condition in humans and horses. In some cases, children have displayed illness.
- St.Louis Encephalitis (SLE) – This is usually the result of unpredictable and intermittent localised epidemics and no cases have been reported so far.
Prevention and Precautions
Mosquitoes being the nemesis they are, one might do well by taking precautions and thereby, prevent the outbreak of any mosquito borne disease. It is actually a small population of mosquitoes that cause infections in humans.
- Avoid mosquito bites.
- Wear full sleeved clothing.
- Avoid outdoor activity during peak mosquito feeding times – dawn and dusk.
- Avoid stagnant water in and around your house – it is the favourite breeding ground of mosquitoes like old discarded tyres, buckets, fountains and ponds, marshes, etc.
- Safety meshes for doors and windows and mosquito nets at night.
- Wear mosquito repellent containing up to 30 percent DEET. Children should ideally wear DEET-free repellents made of natural eucalyptus oil.