“Avoiding mosquito bites is your best prevention from viruses. Keep window and door screens in good repair, remove standing water, wear long sleeved shirt and pants and use bug repellent.”
Although Zika is in the news today, there are a number of other mosquito-borne illnesses. Mosquitos can carry viruses and parasites, and can cause bacterial skin infections due to skin penetration. There are 3,500 species of mosquitos, but only a few that are associated with human infections.
Malaria is the most common parasitic infection and causes 198 million cases a year world-wide. Only 1,500 cases occur in the United States from travelers to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It is carried by the Anopheles mosquito.
West Nile virus, which was heavily reported in the news, only caused 2,060 reported cases in 2015 and 119 deaths. In comparison, influenza and pneumonia cause over 56,000 deaths in the United States per year. Typical symptoms of the viruses may include fever, chills, muscle aches, joint aches, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, depending upon the agent. The table below shows the common viruses. Most cases of West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis are asymptomatic (don’t cause any symptoms) and resolve completely. Chikungunya can cause joint pains for months after infection and yellow fever can cause ongoing fatigue for weeks. Up to half the cases of Japanese encephalitis and survivors of Eastern equine encephalitis have long-term neurologic effects.
Avoiding mosquito bites is your best prevention from viruses. Keep window and door screens in good repair, remove standing water, wear long sleeved shirt and pants and use bug repellent. Travelers can be immunized for Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis, while prophylaxis is available for Malaria.