The mosquito is a major pest. And not just because its bites can become red and itchy and make a summer’s day enjoying nature an unpleasant experience.
Mosquitoes can carry several dangerous diseases. While the United States has done an excellent job of eradicating some of the most dangerous of these, the threat that mosquitoes carry here is nothing to ignore or downplay.
Perhaps the most serious disease risk to Americans comes via the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus. Only about 70 to 80 percent of those people who are infected with the virus develop any symptoms, which can include headache, sever body aches, pain in the joints, vomiting, and diarrhea/rash. Most of those who come down with these symptoms recover quickly, but can feel weak and fatigued for weeks or months.
About 1 percent of those infected with the virus develop meningitis or encephalitis. Ten percent of those who come down with these serious neurological disorders die.
Other serious mosquito-borne diseases include:
- Yellow Fever
- Dengue Fever
- Rift Valley Fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
- La Crosse Encephalitis
- St. Louis Encephalitis
- Western Equine Encephalitis
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
Virtually all of these diseases are extremely rare in the U.S. (with the exception of West Nile), although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that about 75 cases of Dengue Fever appeared in Florida in 2009 and 2010 and two have been reported so far in 2014.
To protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-borne diseases and infections, the CDC recommends the following:
- Always use an insect repellant that contains DEET, IR3535, picaridin, and/or some para-menthan-diol, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus products whenever you plan to walk in a park, or woods. Repellants that contain DEET are the most effective.
- It’s especially important to use insect repellant whenever you go outdoors if your region has seen an outbreak of West Nile Virus.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.
- Mosquitoes can bite through clothing, so it’s wise to spray your clothes with insect repellant.
- Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and at dusk, so be sure to dress appropriately and spray repellant if you’ll be active outdoors at these times.
- Empty standing, still water from buckets, flowerpots, pool covers, gutters, pet water dishes, birdbaths, fountains, and old tires. See if you can drain puddles that form and last a day or more on lawns or sidewalks.
- If you see dead birds and it appears they did not die from hitting something, report them to your local health authorities. Dead birds can be a sign that West Nile Virus is moving between birds and mosquitoes. Do not touch the bird.