Nearly everyone has been there – the perfect picnic on a summer's day that suddenly became invaded by mosquitoes. These obnoxious little pests bite, leaving itchy, painful welts behind that can last for days. But what do you do? No one wants to forgo the pleasures of summer – fishing, the pool, barbecues, and more. But did you know that mosquitoes pose more serious health risks than an itchy bite mark?
About 10 percent of the 2000 species of mosquitoes live in North America. Thriving in humid and damp areas, mosquitoes reproduce quickly. Laying eggs in shallow pools of water, the eggs hatch and grow, becoming adult, biting mosquitoes. And these biting pests can carry a myriad of diseases:
- West Nile Virus – now considered a seasonal epidemic in North America, West Nile virus makes the news nearly every summer. It causes inflammation of the brain, and can be fatal in some patients.
- Malaria – this mosquito-borne disease can be found around the world, primarily in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. Symptoms can vary from one patient to another, and include fever, body aches, coma, and death.
- Dengue fever – this disease can be found in the tropics, and comes from a certain type of mosquito that is active during the day time.
- Yellow fever – found in South America and Africa, this disease does have a vaccine. However, in areas where the vaccine is unavailable, the mosquitoes transmit the disease from one person to another.
- Heartworm – a parasite affecting household pets, the larvae are transmitted by mosquitoes. Untreated, heartworms can clog up the heart, causing cardiovascular problems and death.