If you rank the world’s deadliest pests together, there’s absolutely no doubt that the tiny mosquito will reign supreme.
This little insect has devastated countless families and has taken millions of lives since ancient times. And to see how they do it, here are 10 of the most horrific diseases that prove why mosquito bites are dangerous.
Let’s start with the one of most terrible diseases.
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Although it’s not fatal, Elephantiasis or Lymphatic filariasis is a shocking disease that got its name from expanding the patient’s limbs and other body parts into huge grotesque shapes that are comparable to an elephant’s.
The disease is caused by parasites called filarial worms. These are tiny thread-like worms that damage the lymphatic system by living inside the lymph nodes. The glands that are in-charge of fighting against infections and maintaining fluid balance. With the worms inside the glands, the normal lymph flow of the body is blocked, and complications like chronic lymphedema and disproportional giant torsos occur.
This condition’s most obvious symptom is the abnormal growth of some body parts and the thickening sensation underneath the skin. However, it does show no symptoms in its early stages, so it’s difficult to diagnose.
Elephantiasis is a tropical disease, so it mostly happens in Asia and Africa. But you shouldn’t count yourself out just yet. The disease spreads because of travelers. In 2015 alone, about 38.5 million people were infected all over the world, and there have also been cases reported in the US.
West Nile Fever
One reason that points out why mosquito bites are dangerous is the West Nile virus.
The virus circulates along the blood and causes mayhem inside the human body. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of the time, the West Nile fever doesn’t have any symptoms. But when they do occur, you may experience headaches, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, tiredness and rashes. Over time, you’ll also struggle through disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. And in extreme cases, a patient can even fall into a deep coma and die.
Currently, there’s no vaccine that can cure this disease. And even worse, it has proven to be more common than we think. Since the 90s, it has infected its way through Europe, the US, West Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, Venezuela and Australia. WHO even estimates that 1 in every 150 people of any age may be infected with the virus already.
Its name may sound funny, but Chikungunya is definitely no joke.
Chikungunya is a condition named after its virus. But the name, itself, comes from “Kimakonde”, a word from the Mozambique dialect that means “that which bends up” since its primary symptom is agonizing joint pain.
The condition is characterized by a sudden fever and of course, pain all over your joints for weeks. This often gets so bad that it might even incapacitate you. The illness also carries other symptoms like nausea, muscle pain, rashes and fatigue.
If left untreated, this disease can cause serious complications that will last for years. It can also cause death for more fragile people like children and the elderly.
This disease has been known to have started in the Caribbean. But since then, there have been many Chikungunya cases all over the Western hemisphere as early as 2013 probably because Aedes mosquitoes are unknowingly transported by people. They’re the prime carriers of this disease.
If diseases were members of a family, Chikungunya would have the scary older brother. And he would be the Dengue fever.
Like Chikungunya, Dengue fever is also caused by a virus of the same name. It’s carried by the Aedes mosquitoes, inflict the same symptoms and is a common occurrence in tropical countries.
But what makes this condition different is its fatality rate. Simply put, it’s more dangerous than Chikungunya.
According to Chikungunya.in’s Fever Guide, the neurological damage delivered by Chikungunya is rare, and only 10% of its patients develop severe joint paint. In contrast, Dengue is a hemorrhagic fever that can develop complications such as shock, difficulty in breathing and heavy bleeding as blood vessels become leaky and start to dispense liquid out. Without proper treatment, death may be eminent in a matter of weeks.
Dengue fever frequents Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. But lately, it has also reached Central and South America, South Texas, Florida and Hawaii.
Rift Valley Fever
Rift Valley fever is an acute viral disease that targets animals like cows, sheep, goats, buffalos, camels as well as humans.
Aside from mosquito bites, humans get Rift Valley fever from being around dead animals. Specifically, touching blood and organs of livestock enables the virus to enter the human body.
People who have this illness have the flu-like symptoms, but they can also have joint and muscle pain, headaches that come and go, sensitivity to light, a stiff neck, vomiting, rashes, jaundice and liver damage. After weeks, the disease can lead to memory loss, disorientation, vertigo, convulsions and a coma.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the virus was identified in the 1910s, but it has spread since then. Right now, you can get infected if you’re in the eastern, western and southern regions of Africa. There was also an outbreak of the disease in Saudi Arabia in September 2000.
This next health risk is a common occurrence for our furry friends. We’ve mentioned it a couple of times during our earlier post, but in here, we’d like to shed more light on this disease.
Dog heartworms or Dirofilaria immitis are thin wispy roundworms that invade mammal hearts and respiratory systems to complete their life cycle. Mosquitoes get them from biting other mammals that already have young worms floating in their bloodstream. The worms live inside the mosquitoes for 2 to 3 weeks only to be transported back to another mammal’s body when the mosquito feeds. They then attach themselves to the heart and some parts of the lungs to devour bodily fluids.
Heartworms can instigate fainting spells, severe coughing and even anemia. But according to Animal Diversity Web, heavier and more threatening infestations can lead to circulatory and heart dysfunction, liver cirrhosis and the inflammation of the inner linings of arteries (endarteritis).
Now we mentioned “mammals” a lot because there is a chance that we humans can also get heartworms. This case is totally not uncommon since it does happen. CDC has even found that the US has a total of 81 reported cases on heartworms from 1941 to 2005.
Another reason that proves why mosquito bites are dangerous is encephalitis.
Encephalitis can trigger swelling on your spinal cord and brain. It’s a scary thing to think about. And the fact that it’s carried by a tiny insect is even more unsettling.
Once the virus hits you, it’s only a matter of time until the body attempts to protect itself by causing the immune system to attack the brain. This starts off with a fever, soar throat and recurring headaches. Then, seizure, drowsiness, fainting, muscle weakness, confusion and even a coma can soon follow.
Fortunately, death through encephalitis is rare. It depends heavily on a number of other factors like age and the severity of the illness.
Just recently, the Zika virus was all over the news. So we’ve talked about Elephantiasis and the West Nile Virus. But what does this one do?
Most of the time, it’s a symptomless infection. However, there have been cases of people experiencing fevers, pinkeyes, muscle pain, joint pain and uncomfortable rashes. But the virus doesn’t really stand out until grave problems like Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly occur.
Microcephaly is the most televised effect of the Zika virus. It’s when a pregnant woman is bitten by a Zika-filled mosquito and her unborn baby gets hit by the infection, stopping any further development on its brain and sometimes, on other vital organs and tissues. But the baby doesn’t die. Instead, it will have deformations on its body. Its head will be smaller than it should be, and its life expectancy will only be for a few months or even shorter.
The Zika virus was first found in Africa in the 1940s. Now, this pathogen has spread all throughout the world, including places like Mexico, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia.
Currently, there’s no cure to this disease.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the dreaded Yellow fever.
The disease got its name from the jaundice that affects some of its patients. People suffering from jaundice have a tinge of yellow in the skin and in the white parts of their eyes.
After 7 to 10 days, yellow fever exhibits symptoms that include recurring headaches and fevers, muscle pain, vomiting, fatigue and of course, jaundice. When it enters the “toxic stage”, patience will start to experience abdominal pain, vomiting blood, lethargy, kidney failure, hemorrhage, seizures, irregular heartbeats and possibly even a coma.
The virus that triggers yellow fever is endemic to the tropical parts of Central and South America and Africa. And according to the World Health Organization, 47 countries in these regions have confirmed to have spotted the disease. However, some travelers from the United States and other far off countries may bring the virus home with them.
And lastly, we have the most common link to mosquitoes, a disease that even Alexander the Great may have even succumbed to – Malaria
Malaria is caused by a parasitic protozoan that belongs to the Plasmodium group, tiny microscopic organisms that live inside mammal bodies. They travel through the blood vessels to get into the liver to reproduce and to take over the body they’re infecting.
People who suffer from malaria show symptoms like recurring fevers and headaches and severe chills. And if it’s left untreated, it could result into anemia, respiratory distress and damages in several tissues and organs like the heart, kidneys, brain and lungs.
CDC has confirmed that in 2015, approximately 212 million malaria cases have happened worldwide. About 429,000 of those resulted into deaths, and 1,500 cases belonged to the US, happening mostly to travelers and immigrants from Africa and Asia.
So that’s it, the deadliest pest will forever be the common mosquito. Even though the flea can cause the Bubonic Plague, it can’t hold a candle against the sheer number of health risks the tiny mosquito carries. These diseases are the main reasons why mosquito bites are dangerous. And these diseases are the main reasons why we should eradicate them.