Can mosquitoes really transmit diseases? If yes, which? In this post, you find an overview of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases that are caused by mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes and diseases. Unfortunately, the two are inseparable. Especially in tropical regions, mosquitoes transmit dangerous diseases like malaria and dengue. Even worse, statistics on the mortality rate of mosquito-borne diseases can be very frightening. Why? Because according to them, mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on our planet – by far.
You have the greatest chance of getting a dangerous disease transmitted by a mosquito bite in subtropical and tropical areas. Thus, you should be well informed before a trip into the tropics. That’s why mosquito bite prevention and in some cases vaccinations play a very important role to minimize your risk.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. For medical advice as well as accurate diagnosis and treatment always contact the doctor you trust most!
Mosquito-borne diseases fast facts
According to the World Health Association (WHO), there were approximately 216 million malaria cases in 2016. Approximately 445,000 people died.
In total, approximately one million people die each year from insect-borne infectious diseases. Besides malaria, there are also dengue fever, chikungunya, zika fever or yellow fever.
Whether you want to completely delete some countries from your travel list due to this fact, you have to decide for yourself. In any case, you cut the risk, if you are well protected from mosquitoes and prevent as many bites as possible.
What diseases do mosquitoes carry?
In the following sections, we list information about some of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases.
At this point also a note: We are not medical professionals and we offer from a legal perspective, no warranty for the information listed here. Expert medical advice is available from your doctor.
Malaria is probably the first disease that comes to mind when talking about mosquito-borne diseases. And not without reason! Because malaria is very dangerous. According to the WHO, nearly half a million people die each year as a result of malaria.
Malaria is transmitted by a very specific type of mosquito: the nocturnal Anopheles mosquito. This mosquito species occurs mainly in the tropics. The symptoms may include various signs like
- strong fever,
- body aches,
Due to these not very clear indications, it is difficult to distinguish malaria from other diseases. Especially if you bring it from your holidays.
Therefore, it is especially important that you mention travels to tropical countries to your doctor. Because malaria can break out only a few weeks or even months after your return.
Left untreated, malaria can be deadly.
Thus, do not wait too long after the outbreak of the fever and other symptoms. At the latest, consult a doctor after 2-3 days with a strong fever.
2) Dengue fever
In addition to malaria, you often hear a different diagnosis of terror in tropical countries: dengue fever. Unlike malaria, dengue is thought to be transmitted primarily by the day-active tiger mosquito. That means you should protect yourself from mosquitoes in risky areas around the clock.
Dengue also has some other telling names such as “breakbone fever”. Does not sound very tempting. And it is not! At least if the viral disease does not proceed like a mild influenza infection. Because, as the name breakbone fever suggests, dengue can be accompanied by very severe head, neck and limb pain. So much so that you think your bones are breaking.
Symptoms of dengue fever include ailments such as
- strong muscle and limb pain,
In general, people usually survive a first dengue infection very well. It can be life-threatening only in a few cases. But if you have a fever for already more than two days, go to a doctor or hospital. Especially if you have been traveling in a (sub-) tropical country.
A second infection with dengue is considerably more dangerous.
Dengue also has another special feature. The first infection with one of the four dengue species is usually much milder than a secondary infection with one of the other three dengue species. That’s why I’ve met some traveling people who once had dengue and now avoid traveling to tropical countries.
Why that’s the case is explained medically with the term “antibody-dependent enhancement”. You can find mor information about this topic on Wikipedia.
3) Japanese encephalitis
Another mosquito-borne disease is Japanese encephalitis. This disease progresses mildly to unnoticed in most cases. However, if the illness breaks out, it can lead to severe meningitis with permanent damage. In one of four cases, it can also lead to death.
The Japanese encephalitis virus also occurs mainly in tropical regions of Asia. However contrary to the name not only in Japan but also in rural regions in other Asian countries as well as in the Pacific area. The transmitter is usually the nocturnal rice field mosquito. The biggest risk is at the end of the rainy season.
Symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis include:
- fever with chills
- headache and muscle pain
- disturbances of consciousness
- neuronal disorders
As with dengue fever, the treatment of Japanese encephalitis is primarily limited to the treatment of concomitant symptoms. But there is a vaccine against this disease. Whether a vaccination against Japanese encephalitis makes sense for your trip, you should discuss with your doctor.
4) Yellow fever
Yellow fever is also an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. The main carrier is the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) in the subtropical and tropical regions of Africa and South America.
Mild cases of yellow fever are associated with feverish symptoms:
- head and back pain
In severe cases, an aggravated second phase occurs after the first wave of fever. This second phase can cause damage to internal organs and death in every fifth case. It is accompanied by jaundice and coagulation problems.
If you want to enter risky areas, there is the possibility of a vaccination. In some countries, this is also a duty to be allowed to enter at all. If that’s the case you have to research for your destination country and discuss with your doctor whether a vaccination makes sense for you.
5) Other mosquito diseases:
- zika virus
- west nile fever