Many of us are familiar with the sound — the incessant buzzing that means a mosquito is nearby. The itchy and irritating bites normally accompanied by its presence are soon to follow. While mosquito bites might seem like a mere annoyance, they are actually responsible for countless deaths every year. Diseases with painful symptoms are transmitted by mosquitoes and are a growing worldwide threat. Click to learn more about these small but life-threatening bugs and the dangers they pose to the global population.
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MOSQUITOES ARE THE DEADLIEST ANIMAL ON EARTH
Mosquitoes and the diseases they spread are responsible for more deaths than lions, sharks, and even humans every year. They infect millions of people, resulting in thousands of deaths. Mosquitoes kill upwards of 725,000 people every year, based on reported cases. There could be many more unaccounted deaths caused by mosquito bites. It is estimated that diseases spread by mosquitoes have killed more people over the years than all the wars in history. (Source)
ONLY FEMALE MOSQUITOES FEED ON BLOOD
Female mosquitoes are solely responsible for the spread of infectious diseases in humans. A female mosquito bites to feed on blood, which is necessary for her to reproduce. The blood serves as a source of protein for the eggs that she carries, not for herself. Males and females alike feed on plant sugars and nectar to keep their own bodies nourished. (Source)
THERE ARE MORE THAN 3,000 SPECIES OF MOSQUITOES
Thousands of mosquito species have been identified around the world, with more than 100 species found in North America alone. Despite their massive numbers, there are only three species that are responsible for the spread of infectious diseases in humans. Anopheles, Culex and Aedes mosquito species are known carriers and transmitters of human illnesses. (Source)
Anopheles mosquitoes are the only known species to spread malaria, and they also transmit filariasis and encephalitis. The female picks up the parasite that causes malaria when she bites into a source of blood that carries the disease. She then transmits that parasite when it mixes with her saliva as she bites into another source. It passes into the blood, infecting the person who was bitten. Malaria kills more than 600,000 people every year. (Source)
House mosquitoes commonly found in urban areas and western encephalitis mosquitoes found in rural areas are both types of culex mosquitoes. The West Nile virus is mainly transmitted through these types of mosquitoes, as well as encephalitis and filariasis. Mosquitos become infected when they feed on birds with West Nile virus. Once the virus passes through them and into their salivary glands, mosquitoes can then infect humans with a bite. Only 1 in 150 people infected with West Nile become severely ill, with symptoms lasting a few weeks and a risk of potentially permanent neurological effects. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 80 percent of infected people show no symptoms at all. (Source)
Aedes mosquitoes carry yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis. The Asian Tiger mosquito in particular has been identified as the host for five different diseases in the United States. It infects humans, cats, dogs and birds. There is also concern about the rapid spread of a joint and muscle pain illness called Chikungunya virus, for which there is no vaccine or treatment. Health officials are worried about the spreading virus, which is now infecting those who have not traveled outside of the U.S. About 60 to 90 percent of those infected have symptoms, including joint pain and high fevers lasting for weeks. (Source)
MOSQUITOES CAN DETECT CARBON DIOXIDE MORE THAN 100 FEET AWAY
Mosquitoes use exhaled carbon dioxide and body odors to find and hone in on their next meal. They can sense lactic acid released through perspiration, as well as the heat that surrounds a person's body. Specific blood types, a higher body temperature and a heavy amount of exhaled carbon dioxide are all factors that can make a person especially attractive to mosquitoes. Some researchers even think that darker clothing can be a cue for mosquitoes to use as a visual target. (Source)
NOT ALL MOSQUITO BITES CAUSE SKIN REACTIONS
Similar to how mosquitoes show preference to certain individuals when biting them, people's reactions vary to bites. While some people's skin becomes red and inflamed from a mosquito bite, others show no reaction at all. The mark of a bite is actually the sign of an allergic reaction. Swelling, itching and redness are all caused by an allergy to a mosquito's saliva, which encounters the skin during a bite. (Source)
ALL MOSQUITOES REQUIRE WATER TO BREED
The four stages of a mosquito's life are as follows: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The larval and pupal stages are spent in water, which is vital to their survival. The female only needs a few inches of water to lay her eggs and any stagnant water will do. Clogged gutters, birdbaths and even empty flower pots should be emptied of any water to discourage mosquitoes from landing there. (Source)
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THE THREAT OF MOSQUITOES IS GROWING
Mosquitoes are found on every continent except Antarctica. Although global efforts have been made to control the population with insecticide spraying, their reach is still expanding. Scientists also worry that global warming is a contributing factor to increasing mosquito populations. The CDC recommends applying insect repellent and covering exposed skin to prevent mosquito bites when outside. It also recommends using insect repellents with active ingredients of either DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus. These have all been recognized by the CDC as effective against mosquitoes. (Source)
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