Just How Dangerous Are Mosquitos, Really?

mosquito sign For many people, mosquitos probably don’t  highly rank on their personal list of dangerous animals. Especially not compared with other members of the animal kingdom, such as lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!).  After all, they’re not very large, and they have no fangs, claws, or venom. Rather than a dangerous predator, they come across more as a paltry parasitic pest.

They’re irritating, sure enough, but just how dangerous are they, really?

Not the Bite That Kills You

Now one thing is true – mosquitos on their own are not especially dangerous. They bite, you scratch, and shortly thereafter, you forget. Even a whole swarm of mosquitos won’t cause much trouble beyond the irritation and discomfort. But it’s not so much the bite itself that should concern you as what the bite may be carrying.

There are a large number of viral diseases that can be picked up and carried by mosquitos, including but by no means limited to West Nile virus, malaria, dengue fever, and the zika virus. The last one, in particular, has become somewhat infamous due to recent exposure in the news lately. These diseases can be fairly debilitating, even deadly. While the risks of contracting a disease from a mosquito bite are small, mosquitos are seldom encountered on their own, and the chance of being infected goes up the more often you’re bitten.

It may surprise you to learn that because of all this, mosquitos are actually considered to be one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet, surpassing more obvious contenders such as great white sharks, wolves, and other big predators. It has been estimated that millions of people die every year because of malaria spread by mosquito bites alone. Add in the various other illnesses spread by mosquitos, and the number of lives affected can quickly run into the tens of millions.

Of course, malaria is regarded by most Americans as a disease that happens to other people in other countries. Indeed, most US doctors will never encounter a case of the disease in their careers. But even in a country where the disease has been all-but eradicated, there continue to be about 1,500 cases of it reported a year. But it took concerted efforts over many years for us to get to this point — a point we have not yet reached for other diseases that can be spread by mosquito bites.

Mosquito-borne Diseases in the US

So what kind of diseases can you expect to catch from the average mosquito? At this moment, the diseases of particular concern to the average American, and in particular those in lower latitudes, are yellow fever, West Nile virus, dengue fever, and chikungunya.

Many of you will remember when the West Nile virus was getting a lot of attention. Back around the early 2000s, two men from Queens, New York, were discovered to have similar but as-of-yet unidentified illnesses, showing paralysis in their limbs and fever-like symptoms. As time went on, more people began to suffer from the mysterious illness, which was eventually identified as the West Nile virus, something entirely unheard of in the United States before that time.

Since then, the disease has spread rapidly. The mortality rate is low, and is estimated only to be around 1% — with many cases so mild they usually go undiagnosed. But for many others, it’s certainly no walk in the park.

Mosquitos in and of themselves are about as dangerous as any other biting insect you may encounter. They may try to eat you, but they can only get so far, and an individual bite doesn’t carry a huge risk of infection. But as they move in clouds, you can end up rolling the dice quite a few times in the course of a single evening. What makes them dangerous is their capacity to carry diseases that can all but cripple otherwise healthy adult humans, and are all-but devastating to children and the elderly.

Cover your skin. Wear long sleeves and trousers during mosquito season to reduce a number of flesh mosquitos can bite. If it’s too warm, try to find a light breathable material like cotton to wear.
Cover your doors and windows with screens. These can prevent mosquitoes from flying into your homes, especially if you want to let in a cool breeze during a hot day.
Use insect repellent. Contact your local doctor for their recommendation on a suitable mosquito repellent for you and your family.
Avoid letting standing water sit around your home. Such bodies of water are used by mosquitos to lay their eggs in. If you have a garden pond, install a filtration system to keep the water from becoming a breeding ground, and ensure that all drains and gutters around your home remain unblocked.
Hire a professional. If the mosquitoes seem to be taking over your yard you may need to have a professional, such as Heron Lawn and Pest Control in Orlando, spray around your home’s perimeter to eliminate the insects.