Over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year. Mosquitoes are responsible for causing more human suffering than any other organism. Mosquitoes can spread disease from human-to-human, but they can also carry and transmit diseases and parasites that affect dogs and horses.
Mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases can lead to a series of symptoms including fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, rashes, confusion, and light sensitivity. The bites of mosquitoes can also cause irritation of the skin, which is caused from an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva.
Mosquito-transmitted diseases are mostly prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. That means these diseases are often common in North America, but it’s still very important to keep prevention of these diseases in mind while traveling abroad.
Prior to traveling abroad, it is always a good idea to have a full travel health consultation. This can benefit you by providing more information on all diseases, mosquito-borne and otherwise, so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent them before traveling. Some countries have rules and regulations on certain vaccines and when you have to have them prior to entry. For areas where malaria is present, anti-malarial medication can be prescribed for you and is the best way to prevent malaria. Attending a travel health consultation can be a great way to let an expert do all the hard work so you can be as prepared as possible for your trip overseas.
There are a few measures you can take to prevent infection from mosquito bites in general:
- use insect repellent
- wear long sleeved shirts and pants
- use windows and door screens
- sleep with a bed net
- stay in air conditioned rooms
- avoid areas with still or stagnant water
In some cases, vaccination is the best possible form of protection. Vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever are available to travelers going to regions with these diseases and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other diseases, like West Nile virus and dengue fever have vaccines currently under development that could be available within a few years, but are best prevented through proper use of mosquito-resistant clothing and repellents for now.
Mosquito-borne diseases are fairly common and can be difficult to prevent if a vaccine or medication isn’t available, be sure you are prepared before traveling against some of the most common diseases:
- Malaria: The ancient disease originating from Africa gets its name from the Italian words meaning “bad air.” Malaria causes over one million deaths every year, most cases being children under the age of 5. 40% of the world’s population is susceptible to the disease. The areas most affected are the tropical and subtropical parts of the world.
- Yellow Fever: Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs in the tropical areas of Africa and the Americas. Vaccination against the disease is recommended or even required for travel to some countries in these regions. The majority of people infected with this disease have a few flu-like symptoms, but about 15 percent of cases can lead to severe symptoms and possible death.
- Japanese Encephalitis: Japanese encephalitis is one of the most common mosquito-borne diseases in Asia, affecting individuals in even the most developed countries. It generally occurs in rural or agricultural settings, but it has been known to exist in urban environments as well. It is estimated that roughly 68,000 cases are reported annually, all of them vaccine-preventable.
- Dengue Fever: Dengue affects up to 400 million people per year. The symptoms of dengue are very uncomfortable and include mild bleeding (in the nose or gums), severe headaches and pain behind the eyes, and rashes. Severe dengue can lead to hemorrhagic fever or septic shock and possibly death. Like malaria, dengue is not vaccine-preventable, and the best protection comes from mosquito repellents and other measures.
- Chikungunya: The chikungunya virus is reported to be present in over 60 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In 2013, it was found for the first time in the Caribbean Islands. The viral disease does not often result in death; however, joint pain can last for months or years and, in some cases, can lead to lifetime chronic pain and disability. The best way to prevent chikungunya is through the use of repellents and protective clothing.
To learn more about these mosquito-borne diseases, visit their individual pages.