As the international community continues its fight against the Zika virus, experts warn that it is just one of the many and growing widespread diseases spread by mosquitoes. These continent-jumping diseases continue to threaten populations around the world.
Other diseases transmitted by mosquito bites include dengue, malaria and chikungunya. The speed of these disease-carrying mosquitoes is increasing with the rest of the world providing the polluted urban landscape in which they thrive.
Chikungunya left many Italians sick in 2007. Moreover, the large late-2013 chikungunya outbreak in the Caribbean left many suffering from joint pains and fever. It had never been documented in the Caribbean before.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-transmitted disease wherein infection symptoms include joint pain and swelling, fever, rashes and headaches. The Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the common culprits of chikungunya.
The battle against Malaria has seen improvements in recent years. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria cases dropped by 37 percent across all populations that are at risk. Global malaria death rates also dropped by 60 percent. The Plasmodium parasites cause malaria, which is carried by the Anopheles mosquitoes.
In 2012, over 2,000 documented cases of dengue were reported in the Madeira archipelago in the Atlantic. This challenges the notion that mosquito-borne diseases are confined in the tropics.
Continent-Jumping Mosquito Species
In Europe alone, the past 40 years have seen the appearance of six new mosquito species. Five of these invasive species arrived since 1990. The international trade of used vehicle tires is largely accountable as mosquitoes lay eggs in used tires. The rain saturates these eggs and when they hatch, they are often in a new country or continent.
Western Canada saw the first appearance of the invasive Aedes japonicas species last November while in the U.S., the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti was found to be spending their winters in Metro subway stations and in sewers in Washington, D.C.
Despite the Zika hazard, many experts believe that the biggest threat comes from the Aedes albopictus species, which is also called the Asian tiger mosquito. This species is believed to have the capability to spread over 25 viruses and Zika is just one of them.
In the U.S., the Asian tiger mosquito has reached California and Massachusetts while it has already spread in Strasbourg and Paris in Europe.
"There is strong evidence that Aedes albopictus is now out-competing aegypti in some areas and becoming more dominant," said mosquito expert Ralph Harbach, London's Natural History Museum's entomologist.
How To Protect Yourself From Mosquito Bites
The best way to prevent yourself from potential virus infection transmitted by mosquitoes is to get vaccinated. However, in cases where no vaccine is available, here are some suggestions for mosquito bite protection.
- Install screens on the windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Empty containers that can contain stagnant water. These include vases and buckets.
- Depending on the weather, try to cover up by wearing more long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Use long-lasting insect repellants with picaridin, DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, IR3535 and para-menthane-diol.
- You can use insect repellant with your sunscreen by applying the latter first and waiting for it to get absorbed before applying the repellant.
- Don't use repellant in areas covered with clothing. It is meant for the skin that is exposed.