These Mosquito-Borne Diseases Are DESTROYING Our Lives

By Fast Knockdown | Mosquito Facts

Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria… Mosquitoes pose a threat to our existence, but how much do you know about the vile diseases that they transmit? This list of mosquito borne diseases caused by mosquitoes will tell you what you need to know, so that you don’t go into a blank mind the next time when you hear these terms. 

Note that mosquito-borne diseases define those that are infectious in nature which can be bacterial, viral or parasitic. This does not include congenital conditions or allergic reactions like Skeeter Syndrome.

1. Malaria

What’s it about: Malaria is one of the oldest mosquito-borne diseases in the book, dating back all the way to 2700 BC. It is caused by the protozoal parasite Plasmodium, primarily by the vivax and falciparum species.[1] Transmission is through the female Anopheles mosquito, namely the quadrimaculatus and freeborni species. In fact, one child is killed by Malaria every 40 seconds.

The Malaria parasite travels into your liver and infects your red blood cells. They burst after a 2-3 day cycle as they multiply and infect even more red blood cells, so you may notice that your symptoms coincide with the cycles.

What it feels like: Common symptoms that you might observe include high fever, chills, seizures, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, bloody stools.

Writer Sharell Cook describes her experience of Malaria as a fever that is short and recurring, followed by chills and ache. Philantropist Brett Becker’s fever recurred every 2 hours, at temperatures of over 40°C.

If left untreated, Malaria could develop life-threatening complications, notably cerebral malaria, where blood vessels swell and damage the brain. Another serious complication is pulmonary edema where fluid accumulates in the lungs and cause difficulty in breathing. There are many other possible complications as well, which by then you should be seeking medical assistance.

What to do with it:

Malaria can be effectively prevented by proper medications if you’re heading to a Malaria-prone area. Mefloquine and chloroquine are good for long trips as they are taken weekly. Malarone (combination of atovaquone and proguanil) and Doxycycline are good for short trips as they can be taken 1-2 days before you set off.  Consult a healthcare professional for the most suitable regime.

Medication treatment is also available. Common ones include Chloroquine (Aralen), Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin), Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), and Mefloquine.

Certain species are resistant to some of the medication, which are constantly evolving. Check CDC site for the latest resistance list based on the country that you’re heading to.

2. Chikungunya

What’s it about: Caused by the Chikungunya virus, Chikungunya was described in southern Tanzania back in 1952. The word comes from the Makonde language which means “that which bends up”. This disease is characterized by a sudden onset of fever followed by excruciating joint pain, where the pain lasts from days to weeks. Transmission is by the Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito) and Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever Mosquito), and it mainly occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent, though there have been several reports in Europe as well. chikungunya joint pain What it feels like: Flu-like symptoms present themselves around 3 to 7 days after infection. Serious complications, which can involve the eyes, heart and gastrointestinal system, are generally rare. Most patients fully recover, but the joint pain tends to persist.

Blogger Naomi Hattaway first experienced high fever followed by rashes, which was when debilitating joint pain set in and made it challenging to even get up from bed. The illness recurred every 3 to 4 days, even months after the initial symptoms.

What to do with it: No cure is available. Symptomatic relief can be given (refer to Common relief medications for mosquito-borne diseases). Joint pain can be relieved with cold compress. Chikungunya has no commercial vaccines; only a vaccine undergoing phase II trial at time of writing.

3. Dengue

What’s it about: The Dengue virus is an arbovirus of the flaviviridae family, that has been a growing threat through the years. It originated from 4 monkeys over hundreds of years ago, which then spread to humans. It mainly occurs in Americas, Asia and Africa, but is more prominent in Southeast Asia especially in Indonesia. Transmission is via the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are not controlled by spraying techniques.

What it feels like: Common symptoms include sudden high fever (40°C/ 104°F) followed by a rash 2 to 5 days later. Fatigue, headache, pain behind the eyes, and mild bleeding like bleeding gums may occur.

Writer Sharell Cook experienced Malaria via a fever “fever that lasts for up to seven days often with a drop and then small resurgence towards the end (biphasic pattern)” together with the swelling.

What to do with it: No cure is available for the dengue virus. Symptomatic relief can be given (refer to Common relief medications for mosquito-borne diseases). Severe cases involving dengue shock or hemorrhagic fever may require intravenous volume replacement to prevent hypovolemic shock. At time of writing, Dengue has 5 serotypes identified where each type behaves differently in our blood, and a vaccine CYD-TDV (brand name Dengvaxia), that immunizes against 4 of the serotypes, is commercially available.

4. Zika

What’s it about: The Zika virus first came from central Africa, discovered back in 1947 from macaque monkeys residing in the Ziika Forest in Uganda. It is also an arbovirus of the flaviviridae family. Transmission is mainly through the Aedes mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

What it feels like: Its common symptoms resemble dengue and Chikungunya, such as fever, headache, rashes, eye inflammation, muscle and joint aches. What makes it a big concern is it complication of microcephaly, where the baby’s head is significantly smaller than than the average as his neurological developments was interrupted during pregnancy. The other complication is the Guillain-Barré syndrome, where the immune system attacks your nerves. But fortunately, it is a rare condition. Some will have difficulty breathing as their heart muscles are affected. A rare few may be paralyzed or killed.

Singapore Aljunied resident, who identified herself as Ms Wat, first had an onset of rashes on her face with mild fever and redness in her eyes. She experienced dry eyes in recurring periods. Her visit to the hospital put her in insolation in the Communicable Disease Centre, and was given plenty of fluids plus constant monitoring of vitals.

What to do with it: No cure is available for the Zika. Symptomatic relief can be given (refer to Common relief medications for mosquito-borne diseases). No vaccines are available commercially; government funding cuts prematurely ended Sanofi’s research on Zika vaccine. You may check CDC’s site for current countries prevalent with Zika: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika

5. Yellow Fever

What’s it about: Yellow Fever virus, similar to the Dengue virus is an arbovirus of the flaviviridae family (flavivirus). It is prevalent in tropical areas of Africa and the America. Fortunately, most people from urban areas are vaccinated against this disease, making it a fairly rare occurrence. The main vector of transmission is the  Aedes aegypti mosquito, but other Aedes mosquito are just as capable as well.

What it feels like: Some notable symptoms experienced are muscle ache particularly in the back and knees, and sensitivity to light. Other common ones include flu-like symptoms and redness of eyes, face or tongue. If the virus reaches the toxic phase, it can create complications like jaundice where your skin yellows and your eyes whiten.

What to do with it: No cure is available for the WNV. Symptomatic relief can be given (refer to Common relief medications for mosquito-borne diseases). Yellow Fever vaccines are available which helped to control outbreaks.

Encephalitis

What’s it about: Encephalitis is a sudden inflammation in the brain. There are many kinds of encephalitis brought about these abominating bloodsuckers, and they share similar symptoms.

What it feels like: Common symptoms include flu-like symptoms like fever and headaches, but a severe case involving the central nervous system will proceed with seizure or coma. They differ in viral structure and can be briefly differentiated based on their locations. Several of them are equine (involving) the horse family which also includes donkeys and zebras).

6. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)

What’s it about: This disease is mainly spread from horses to humans, though its lifecycle involves birds. The virus belongs to the alphavirus group. It’s one of the most serious conditions among the those neuroinvasive ones. Transmission is mainly through the Culex species and Culiseta melanura. It is prevalent in North America, especially Atlantic and Gulf Coast.

One notable point is that once EEE virus infect humans, it cannot spread to any other living thing anymore. Thus humans are also known as the dead-end hosts for EEE.

Statistically, around half are killed by EEE, and among survivors, many end up with irreversible brain damage.

What to do with it: No specific treatment and vaccines are available. Only symptomatic relief.

7. Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE)

What’s it about: WEE is spread from birds to humans and was first found in a horse dating back to 1930 in California. Transmission is by the Culex tarsalis mosquito. The virus belongs to the alphavirus group.

What to do with it: No specific treatment and vaccines are available. Only symptomatic relief.

 8. Japanese encephalitis

What’s it about: This flavirius is prevalent in Asia and northern Australia. The first case traces back to 1871 in Japan. Symptoms present themselves about 5 to 15 days after infection. Symptoms present about 1 to 6 days after infection. Besides common flu-like symptoms, severe ones to note include weakness of the body, rigidity of the neck, and mental retardation.

What to do with it: Vaccination is available. Go get jabbed at least 6 weeks before travelling.

9. Venezuelan equine encephalitis

What’s it about: This disease happens prominently in Florida and the southwestern United States, Central America, and South America.

What to do with it: No commercial vaccine or cure is available. There is an experimental TC-83 vaccine used on military soldiers only when needed, as it does not provide complete immunity.

equine encephalitis mosquito borne diseases

One general observation on equine encephalitis (western, eastern, venezuelan) is vaccines are available only for horses but not humans.

10. St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE)

What’s it about: SLE is spread from birds to humans and is most commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly Florida. It presents symptoms similar to EEE, and no specific treatment and vaccines are available.

What to do with it: Only symptomatic relief, and no vaccine is available.

11. La Crosse Encephalitis (LAC)

What’s it about: This disease got its name from its first case in La Crosse, Wisconsin back in 1963, and is transmitted by a particular mosquito Aedes triseriatus which resides in woodlands. LAC belongs to a group of virus called California virus. It is less prevalent in the world, and found more in the Appalachian region of Mississippi. It is spread from mammals to humans, but it is actually non-transmissible between humans.

What to do with it: No specific treatment and vaccines are available. Only symptomatic relief.

12. California Encephalitis

What’s it about: This was named after the first case in Kern County, California, in 1946, brought about by the California virus, which is of the Bunyaviridae family. Transmission is mainly via the Aedes triseriatus mosquito.

What to do with it: No commercial vaccine or cure is available.

13. Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

What’s it about: This flavivirus is prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe, and Northern Asia, and is mostly transmitted by ticks of the Ixodes family, but is also possible for mosquitoes as well.

What to do with it: No specific treatment is available, but vaccination is available.

14. Powassan encephalitis

What’s it about: First discovered from a boy who died from encephalitis in Powassan, Ontario, in 1958, this flaviviridae virus is commonly found in rodents and ticks. Symptoms typically present flu-like symptoms, plus partial paralysis and coma, which occur about a week after infection. Unfortunately, half of the victims suffer permanent damage to their neurons.

What to do with it: No specific treatment and vaccines are available. Only symptomatic relief.

15. West Nile Virus (WNV) Infection

bird west nile virus mosquito borne diseases

West Nile Virus comes from over 200 identified species of birds such as crows, sparrows and finches.

What’s it about: Similar to Zika, the WNV originated from Africa, Uganda, dating back to the year 1937. This flaviviridae virus has since become emergent in North and central America, Europe, the Middle East, west and central Asia. This virus source comes from over 200 identified species of birds such as crows, sparrows and finches, and are spread by mosquitoes to humans. The mosquito type commonly involved is the Culex genus.

What it feels like: Good news is most WNV infected people present no symptoms and will recover by themselves. For those with symptom onsets, they typically come in 2 to 14 days after infection, and common ones include fever, headache, gastrointestinal disturbances, muscle pain and rashes. WNV broadly presents 2 main types of infections. The non-neuroinvasive one known as West Nile Fever, is considered to be the mildest among them. The neuroinvasive (affecting the nerves) ones usually come in 3 forms:

  • West Nile encephalitis – affecting the brain; some symptoms include rigidity and phobia of light or loud sounds.
  • West Nile meningitis – affecting the brain and the membrane covering it; often characterized by lethargy or change in personality
  • Acute flaccid paralysis – sudden weakness of limbs

Neuroinvasive presentations are rare (less than 1% of the infected victims) but are highly fatal.

What to do with it: No cure or vaccine is available for the WNV. Symptomatic relief can be given (refer Common relief medications for mosquito-borne diseases). Severe cases require hydration and measures to control of seizures.

16. Jamestown Canyon Virus Infection (NEW!)

What’s it about: The Jamestown Canyon virus first diagnosed in July 2017, on a man residing in Kennebec County, Maine. The test takes weeks to generate positive results, so the diseases was likely contracted a few months back. The Kennebec County man started to displayed symptoms earlier in June.

What it feels like: The symptoms are similar to WNV infection and EEE, mainly flu-like symptoms. Severe complications can lead to meningitis (brain swelling). What to do with it: No cure is available. Only symptomatic treatment.

17. Helminthiasis

What’s it about: This disease is the infestation of the filariasis worm that some mosquitoes possess. Some examples of these worms include Wuchereria, Onchocerca, and Dracunculus.

What it feels like: These worms are parasitic and they cause severe swelling in some body parts, sometimes into the size of an elephant limb (known as elephantiasis), which cripples the victim.

What to do with it: You should have seeked medical attention by then.

18. Dog Heartworm

What’s it about: This disease, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, is more of threat for canines, though it can also affect other animals like cats, foxes, raccoons. Mosquitoes inject the third stage larvae of a roundworm called Dirofilaria immitis, and once this larvae eventually reach adulthood, it will reside in the pulmonary arteries or even in the right ventricle of the heart. Adult roundworm can live up to a decade. Dogs are often the “dead-end hosts” whereby infected dogs are unable to transmit the heartworm to another dog even with the same mosquito feeding on them. Transmission is mainly via the Aedes, Culex, Anopheles and Mansonia family. Good news is when the roundworm is injected into an unsuitable host such as us humans, it will die.

What it feels like: Symptoms are not obvious and can be hard to detect. Dirofilaria immitis eventually ends up in the lungs, so your dog may start coughing, and become more easily short-breathed. Complications may cause the dog to faint and die.

What to do with it: One medication to treat is called Immiticide which will be injected into your dog in 2 or 3 doses. Followup monitoring will be essential.

19. Botfly Myiasis

Botfly larva

A botfly larva delivered by a mosquito could eat you from the inside. Credit: ggallice

What’s it about: This is an infestation of the human botfly parasite, Dermatobia hominis. Botfly is home to South and Central America. It basically attaches its eggs to the underside of the mosquito, and as the mosquito sucks a human’s blood, the warmth of the blood will cause the egg to hatch. These hatchling will enter your flesh through the wound the mosquito made or through your hair follicle and other pores. The botfly larvae will feed on the human flesh like a horror sci-fi.

What it feels like: Insect taxonomist Chris Carlton describes his experience of having a sharp pain every 15 to 20 minutes, which is when the larvae has grown and is rotating its burrow in your flesh periodically.

What to do with it: The botfly must be surgically removed from within the flesh.

20. HIV is… NOT mosquito-borne

Fortunately, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are exempted from this chaos. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is unable to replicate and survive inside a mosquito as the mosquito does not have a CD4 marker in its cells, making it impossible for mosquitos to spread Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Vulnerability

In general, the vulnerable population to these diseases are the populations exposed to infected mosquitoes in danger areas, the elderly population and the immunocompromised (eg. AIDs patients, cancer treatments).

Differentiating the diseases

Mosquito Magnet has came up with an interesting infographic that helps you make a quick guess which disease you’re infected with based on your symptoms.

Note that this should NOT be used as a self-diagnosis list. Always consult a medical professional to properly examine your condition.

Common symptoms that resemble a flu

Many mosquito-borne diseases are viral in nature. This often trigger flu-like symptoms, commonly:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigueness

Common relief medications and measures for mosquito-borne diseases

Mosquito-borne viral conditions have no direct cure, only symptomatic relief with pain-relief medications like paracetamol. Many of the mosquito-borne viral conditions (eg. Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, WNV) puts the patient at risk of bleeding and fluid loss, so medications like Ibuprofen, other NSAIDs and aspirin are often discouraged as it may propagate the risk.

Body aches, such as joint pains can be relieved with cold compress using an ice pack. It is important that the patient gets plenty of rest and regularly hydrates himself when trying to recover.

Alternate home remedies

Home remedies should only be tried after medical consultation and proper diagnosis. They are not meant to cure your illness, but to relieve your symptoms only.

  • A drink you can try making is turmeric milk. Mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder with a glass of milk, and drink twice a day for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Ginger can be sliced and boiled until the water drops to half its original volume. This can extract its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties into the water. Simply drink the concoction.
  • Squeeze out lemon juice and add a 5 drops of lime. Mix with water and consume. It may be able to quell fever.

Prevention is the way to go

It pays to do your research and take precautions against mosquitoes. Mosquito-borne diseases are costly to deal with and greatly debilitate us beyond that initial itchiness. 

  • Check what mosquito-borne epidemics are ongoing in the area that you are residing in or travelling to. Malaria has prophylactic (preventive) medications available, which need to be taken before your trip.
  • Make sure your residence isn’t a breeding ground of mosquitoes to begin with. Make sure there is no stagnant sources of water, especially on plant pot stands, pole holders, and any drain clogs.
  • Prepare repellents like DEET, citronella or lemon eucalyptus when you are going outdoors. Refer to our infographic on quick steps to shield yourself from mosquitoes outdoors before you head out.
  • Install a mosquito killer in your place of residence so that mosquitoes are lured and zapped to death, instead of stinging you. Check our recommendations of the best mosquito killer for your needs.

Have you or someone you know ever suffered a mosquito-borne disease? Do you know of a new mosquito-borne disease that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below.

References:
Thermometer image: Claus Rebler
https://www.cdc.gov
http://www.mosquito.org/
https://web.archive.org/web/20081013123447/http://www.cdc.gov/Malaria/biology/parasites/index.htm
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/
http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/effective-home-remedies-to-treat-chikungunya/#gref
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3773989/

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About the Author

The Fast Knockdown Team is tired of hearing news of people being hospitalized or even killed by mosquitoes with their deadly diseases. Fast Knockdown is a trusted mosquito resource site, where we discuss the best mosquito killer and other mosquito information. We aim to mitigate the health and economic issues, and the plain suffering caused by these bloodsucking mosquitoes.

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