How dangerous are mosquitoes? Mosquitoes can apparently be deadly with the new viruses that are out there. Underdeveloped countries are more commonly plagued with viruses we do not see in the U.S. but the tables are turning and we are now seeing some of the worst mosquito borne illnesses that are out there in our own back yards.
Living in the south we have areas where the city helps by spraying road sides and in parks where there is an extremely large quantity of mosquitoes present. Let’s take the West Nile Virus for example. In Arkansas in 2015 there were 18 reported cases and two resulted in death. 2016 is still in full swing but we have only one reported case at the moment but that number is expected to grow. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, “West Nile Virus cannot be spread by person-to-person contact.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.
West Nile Virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa. It was first discovered in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York. Since then, the virus has spread throughout the United States. It was first recognized in Arkansas in 2002.
People infected by WNV will typically develop symptoms within 3 to 14 days after they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Many people are bitten by mosquitoes that carry WNV, but most do not know they’ve been exposed.
- Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
- Mild illness can occur in up to 20 percent of the people who become infected. The people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
- A small number of people (about 1 in 150) who get infected with WNV develop severe disease. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
- Few people develop severe disease or even notice any symptoms at all. Risk factors for developing a more severe form of West Nile Virus include:
- Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, organ transplants and recent chemotherapy.
- People over the age of 50.
- Risk through medical procedures is very low. All donated blood is checked for WNV before being used.”
With the emerging epidemic revolving around the Zikia Virus and according to the Arkansas Department of Health Arkansas has seven reported cases and all of those individuals have been traveling outside of the United States. They also say that, “Zika virus is a relatively new disease for the Western hemisphere. It first appeared in Brazil in May of 2015. It has since spread to over 35 countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Zika is spread through mosquito bites and through sexual transmission from a man to his sexual partner. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Symptoms are usually mild and last several days to a week. Many people who have Zika will not experience symptoms. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika.
“Arkansas residents traveling to Central or South America or the Caribbean, where Zika is present, should take precautions against mosquitoes. If you are pregnant, consider postponing your trip,” said Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas Department of Health Director and State Health Officer. “Arkansas has the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika virus, so mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika. For this reason, people traveling to countries with Zika should avoid mosquito bites for 10 days after they return. Travelers to areas where Zika is present should also go to their doctor if they experience any of the symptoms associated with Zika within three to seven days after they return.”.
One of the major first aid precautions we can do is practice prevention. We need to take time and use our bug repellants and the best ones according to the Arkansas Department of Health as well as other well know accredited bodies suggest:
Ways to avoid mosquito bites include:
- Using an insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
- Using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Reducing the number of mosquitoes inside and outside your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets. Mosquitoes can breed in as little amount of water as a bottle cap.
Please take those precautions and preventative measures to ensure you are not affected by a serious virus transmitted by mosquitoes.