Mosquitos are small flies, resembling midges. They are found in many regions around the world, particularly in warmer climates and tend to reside near stagnant water such as ponds and ditches.
The name “mosquito” is Spanish for ‘little fly’. The thousands of different species feed on various hosts, including mammals and birds. Although the amount of blood taken is of very little difference to the host, the mosquito deposits saliva which can cause irritation to skin.
Implications of a mosquito bite are however not just limited to itchy bites. Some species can transmit serious diseases such as; Malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue and the Zika Virus- some details of which can be found below.
Malaria– This disease is found in approximately 100 countries around the world, predominantly in tropical regions. In 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that there were 198 million cases resulting in 584,000 deaths. Symptoms can include a fever, headaches, vomiting, muscle pain and diarrhoea. Anti-malarial medication is used to treat the disease, which can show itself within 7-10 days, however signs have been reported up to one year later.
Yellow Fever– Found in the southern half of the equator, it is a serious viral infection that kills around 30,000 people out of the 200,000 estimated to get infected. Initial signs of infection develop within 3 to 6 days which mirror that of malaria. Around 15% of those afflicted go on to develop issues such as jaundice, kidney failure and bleeding from various orifices. Around half of the infected who experience these problems will die.
Dengue Fever– Spread throughout many parts of the world, Dengue Fever affects millions with many cases unreported or miss-diagnosed. It causes the afflicted to experience a fever, severe headaches, muscle and joint pain, vomiting and a widespread rash. These symptoms will arise in around 4 to 10 days, passing in around a week, although people may feel unwell for weeks after. There is currently no medication to treat this infection, however bed-rest and plenty of fluids over a week will see improvement.
Zika Virus– Commonly reported in the Pacific, Caribbean, South and Central America. It is generally a low risk infection and not harmful, however this is not the case with pregnant women as it can cause birth defects for the child- in particular, abnormally sized heads. It is unclear how many people have been affected by the virus due to the lack of symptoms. As with Dengue Fever, there is no known vaccine.
If any of the above symptoms are evident, urgent medical attention must be sought.