Mosquitoes kill more than 725,000 people per year. This number is higher than the fatalities caused by humans, sharks, lions, wolves, alligators, and dogs combined. According to a new report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), vector-borne diseases are an emerging threat. The lead researcher, Dr. Ronald Rosenberg, with his team observed approximately 650,000 cases over a period of 12 years from 2004 to 2016. He concluded that the frequency of epidemics from mosquito-borne diseases is much higher than other vectors.
British visitors to the United States experienced a 250 percent increase in their risk of developing a disease associated with mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas over a 13 year period.
Some of the mosquito-borne diseases that have gained attention in the recent years include dengue fever, Zika virus, and Chikungunya.
Dengue fever manifests itself through nausea, high fever, pain in joints and muscles and headache. Zika virus produces similar symptoms but is rarely life-threatening, unless in a pregnant woman, where the virus can stunt the development of the fetus, causing a condition called microcephaly. Similarly, Chikungunya, though not fatal, causes fever, severe joint and muscle pains, headaches, and skin rash”. There is no vaccine available for these conditions.
Florida, Hawaii, and Texas have all reported cases of dengue and zika viruses. However, the insects have expanded their reach to almost 38 other US states according to the CDC report.
Other vectors that are of significance include ticks that are responsible for spreading Lyme disease. Lyme disease produces chills, fever, and headache upon infection and can also lead to the development of arthritis in the next two years.
The Centers for Disease Control in the US and the NHS Travel Health Pro Service have comprehensive advice on how to prevent infections.
It is a no-brainer to avoid areas known to have outbreaks of these viruses. If you absolutely have to travel into these areas, exercise caution to steer clear of these bugs. Something as simple as wearing long sleeve shirts, minimizing skin exposure and tucking pants into your socks can prevent mosquito bites and ticks from crawling up your feet. Use reliable bug repellants than relying on garlic or tea tree oil as your only defense.
Researchers across the US and UK agree that in order to avert the threat of a vector-borne global epidemic, national surveillance, vector control measures and vaccination efforts must be coordinated across the countries.