Mosquito-borne DiseasesReading time: 10 minutes
Mosquitoes. They are, in fact, deadly animals. These "little flies" carry devastating diseases. Malaria kills more than 600,000 people every year, not to mention they threaten half of the world's population with other deadly diseases, including zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.
We tend to underestimate mosquitoes, even Bill Gates has identified the danger of these insects and recently started bringing them to prime time by exposing their threat and deadly nature.
Dangers for Humans
The Zika virus disease (known as 'Zika') is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Common symptoms of Zika typically include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The symptoms are generally mild for the person bitten and in can last for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika, making it hard to detect as the source of infection.
Mothers who had been infected with Zika virus while pregnant have reported a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that special precautions for pregnant women be taken, and pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus is spreading.
There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika virus, so the best way to protect yourself is to guard against mosquito bites.
For humans, the West Nile virus is a seasonal epidemic and cases are common in the summer months through to the end of fall, peaking in the first half of August. In North America cases have been popping up in steadily increasing numbers with reported cases in the thousands and deaths now numbering in the hundreds.
Much like Zika virus, most who are infected will never even know they are infected. One in five will experience flu-like symptoms including headache, fever, muscle aches, and lethargy (all considered mild symptoms), and those in good health may not even get sick from the West Nile virus. Approximately one in one hundred and fifty will come down with more harsh symptoms which may include high fever, disorientation, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, encephalitis (swelling of the brain) meningitis, coma, and death. People with weakened immune systems, children, ad the elderly are at an increased risk for potential life-threatening forms of the disease.
The species Culex tarsalis is the primary vector of West Nile virus and is found in southern Canada, particularly in Alberta & Manitoba. This mosquito species prefers shallow, non-moving water bodies and thrives in the hot dry conditions present in the southern climates of Canada.
Chikungunya outbreaks have been reported as far as the Caribbean, South and Central America, and North America. For information on where the chikungunya virus is found, see: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/geo/
Symptoms can be severe and disabling, however, does not often result in death, and most patients start to feel better within a week of infection. Some cases have reported extended pain symptoms, specifically in their joints, that last for months. Some good news from these particular bites is that once a person has been infected, they are more likely to be protected from future infections.
There are actually four distinct strands of the dengue virus, so even patients who are initially infected are at risk of subsequent infection with the other specific virus types. Dengue is an acute illness that can vary in severity over a 5–7 day period. Recognizing warning signs for severe dengue and providing appropriate medical management can prevent morbidity and death.
It is estimated that there are over 100 million cases of dengue worldwide each year.
Symptoms of dengue fever include high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding throughout the body. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is characterized by a high fever that lasts in the body from 2 to 7 days, with general signs and symptoms consistent with dengue fever. When the fever declines, symptoms including persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing, may then develop. 24 to 48 hours after this new stage sets in, the smallest blood vessels in the body become excessively permeable "leaky" and allow fluid to escape from the blood vessels which may lead to failure of the circulatory system and shock, followed by death, if the circulatory failure is not corrected.
Yellow fever is a historically well-known viral disease with common symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains and headaches. There is a risk of liver damage, bleeding and kidney problems that can occur if the condition continues, causing a yellowing of the skin.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) & Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE)
Spread to both horses and humans by the bite of a mosquito, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), are among the most serious of mosquito-borne arboviruses. They can affect the central nervous system and cause severe complications and even death. A vaccine is available for horses against EEE & WEE, but not for humans.
St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE)
Mosquitoes transmit St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) from birds and pass it along to humans and other mammals. A majority of infected people present symptoms that include fever and headache. More serious infections result in severe headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions and spastic paralysis.
LaCrosse Encephalitis (LAC)
A relatively rare mosquito-borne disease, those at the highest risk of being bitten by a mosquito infected with LaCrosse Encephalitis are people who live, work or recreate in woodland habitats because of greater exposure to potentially infected mosquitoes. Anyone bitten by a mosquito in an area where the virus is circulating can get infected with LACV. Mosquito eggs can maintain the virus over winter, and adults coming from those eggs may be able to transmit the virus to small mammals (the usual warm-blooded host) and humans. There is currently no vaccine for LaCrosse encephalitis.
Dangers for Domestic Animals
Our own domestic animals are at risk from mosquito bites as well, with dogs contracting heartworm transmitted by Culex mosquitoes. As is the case for humans, vaccines are not available for mosquito bites for our furry friends as well, so the recommendation is to keep them safe and stay away from mosquito-infested areas and ensure your yard is mosquito safe!
Dog Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis)
Dog heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) can be a life-threatening disease for canines. The disease is caused by a roundworm and is transmitted through the bit of a mosquito carrying the larvae of the worm. This isn't limited to just dogs, as many other animals such as cats, foxes and raccoons are infected through the bite of a mosquito.
Find out more at https://www.mosquito.org/page/diseases
Buzz Boss trained technicians will work with you to identify any problem areas with our Buzz Check system – book your consultation today!
Dangers for Wildlife
Even outside of our own yards, these pesky parasites cause trouble for the moose, deer, caribou and many other mammals and other critters too. In extreme cases of infestation, there have been many documented cases of caribou being suffocated from the inhalation of mosquitoes.
Cattle and farm animals, including horses, can get seriously infected from mosquito bites too, with large numbers of deaths resulting from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis, and West Nile virus (WNV) in recent years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over three hundred species of birds have been identified to carry the virus and among the three hundred are the Canadian goose, western blue jay, crow, magpie, and tree swallow. Though not all birds die from the infection, it is important to steer clear of any dead bird you might find. A higher-than-average number of dead birds in your area may be an indicator that West Nile is in your area.
There are many things you can do around your own home and yard to prevent the spread and success of mosquitoes. Prevention is the key to mosquito safety.
Here are some home prevention tips:
- Remove any areas that might develop standing water, for example, old tires, ponds, bird baths, wading pools
- Clean your gutters – these are prime mosquito factories
- Levelling the lawn to alleviate puddles or areas where water may accumulate
- Keep garbage clean – piles of moist rotting items are prime grounds for mosquitoes
- Screen your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your house
Reducing the Risk
Along with identifying key problem areas outside, you can reduce the risk of bites to you and your family by taking some simple precautions:
- Stay inside a screened area
- Use insect repellent containing DEET
- Wear long sleeves and pants to cover exposed skin
- Wear light-coloured clothing
- Avoid peak mosquito times (early morning and late afternoon)
Have any questions or concerns? Our Buzz Check allows our trained technicians to thoroughly go through your home and yard and identify any areas that may be at risk, and work to keep your yard and family mosquito safe this season.
Buzz Boss uses an approach called IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program. We examine the areas of your property where mosquitoes are growing or hiding and then turn your yard into a very unattractive environment for them. We use a combination of natural larvicides, natural repellents, and insecticide sprays.
Depending on the climate, each treatment has residual action of up to 21 days, at which time our team will automatically be scheduled to treat your yard again.