In 2014, Bill Gates wrote on his site that mosquitos are the deadliest animal on the world. They carry devastating diseases, he wrote, including dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis, and malaria.
“[Malaria] kills more than 600,000 people every year; another 200 million cases incapacitate people for days at a time. It threatens half of the world’s population and causes billions of dollars in lost productivity annually.”
Another potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease is West Nile virus, which has spread across the United States this summer, and the influx of rainstorms have caused larger swarms of mosquitos in many southern states, including Georgia, Florida, and Texas, and in states as north as Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin. (See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) map of West Nile virus activity.)
West Nile virus is a dangerous mosquito-borne illness that is most present in the U.S. from beginning of summer through the fall. One in five people who contract the virus from an infected mosquito experience symptoms like fever and body pain, and about one in 150 experience more serious, sometimes fatal, illness, according to the CDC.
West Nile virus is the mosquito-borne illness most common in the United States, but is certainly not the only disease that humans can contract from mosquitos.
Dengue virus: More than one-third of the world’s population live in an area where they can contract Dengue Fever, and it’s a leading cause of death in many tropic and subtropic areas. Approximately 400 million people are infected with Dengue virus each year, and approximately 100 million of those people will get sick. A mild case will include fever and flu-like symptoms, and more serious - and potentially fatal - Dengue symptoms include difficulty breathing, vomiting, bloody stool, and bleeding from the nose and gums.
There is no vaccine to prevent Dengue virus and there are no medications to treat it, so the best way to fully protect yourself is to use a mosquito repellent at all times when in an area of concern.
Zika virus disease: As of August 2019, there are currently no countries with a serious Zika outbreak, but it is still possible to contract. When an outbreak occurs and is announced by the CDC, extreme caution should be taken when traveling, and women who are pregnant should avoid travel to that area.
If traveling to countries with a current or past transmission (but no active outbreak), extreme caution should be taken. This means both protecting yourself with a mosquito repellent that includes Picaridin 20%, which is CDC-recommended and EPA-registered to protect against mosquitos for 12-hours with proper use. Additionally, stay protected during sexual contact with others who may have been exposed to Zika, as it can be transmitted between partners.
Chikungunya virus: While Chikungunya is rarely fatal, symptoms can be painful and even debilitating. Common symptoms are fever and joint pain, but can also include headaches, swollen joints, and rash. There is no vaccine or medication for this virus, so it’s important to take preventive measures, such as applying insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants to cover any open skin that’s susceptible to mosquito bites.
Where Are Dangerous Mosquito-Borne Illnesses?
There have been reports of mosquito-borne illnesses in the continental United States, but they are often more of a threat in the tropical U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as islands in the Caribbean (including Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica), Southeast Asia, and Latin America, as they all have similar humid weather in which mosquitos thrive.
According to the Journal of Media Entomology, the countries with the highest number of mosquito species are Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand; Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brazil have the highest number of diseased mosquitos; and the continents where the most mosquito-borne diseases occur are Africa, South America, and Asia.
How to Stay Protected from Mosquitos
Mosquitos are found in every region of the world except Antarctica, so always be prepared to protect yourself by using a mosquito repellent with an active ingredient that is recommended by the CDC and approved by the EPA, like picaridin.
Some mosquito-borne diseases have vaccines available, including Yellow Fever, which is found in sub tropic areas of South America and Africa, and Japanese encephalitis virus infection, which is found in Asia. When traveling by air, be sure to bring a travel size bug spray that is 3.4ml or smaller, which is the approved size by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
If your travel plans involve a lot of time outdoors, such as hiking and camping, then permethrin can be a second layer of defense against mosquitos. Permethrin is an odorless liquid that treats clothing and gear without staining, and effectively protects against ticks, mosquitos, and flies, and can last for several weeks when applied properly.
In order to protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses, you have to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Mosquito bite prevention begins with wearing a daily mosquito repellent that works, like Ranger Ready picaridin insect repellent, which offers 12 hours of protection against mosquitos. Be Ranger Ready and be confident in your travels and adventures.