With the Summer Olympics in Brazil fast approaching, the conversation surrounding the Zika virus has become more widespread. Some athletes who are scheduled to compete in the games have expressed reservations about even making the trip to South America for fear of contracting the disease. Zika also has been pushed to the forefront of discussion within the medical and healthcare communities because of the ways it can be transmitted to humans. As a result, other dangerous mosquito-borne viruses have also become topics of interest.
Here is a short list of other mosquito-borne diseases and their impact on populations as a whole:
West Nile: You've probably already heard of this virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Nile is common, although its effects are highly unusual. The CDC wrote that 80 percent of people who contract the virus will show no signs or symptoms during the incubation period, which can range from three to 14 days. However, 20 percent of people who become infected will develop mild symptoms that mimic the flu (like fever, nausea and body aches). Roughly 1 in 150 people will become seriously ill, and these individuals will have symptoms that range from muscle weakness and loss of vision to permanent neurological impairments.
Dengue Fever: According to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), dengue is fairly common in tropical regions of the Americas (excluding the continental U.S.), Africa and Asia, although it isn't a disease with a high rate of mortality. The CDC wrote that every year, as many as 400 million people contract the virus, and there are currently no vaccines that have been developed to fight it. The incubation period ranges from four to 10 days, and some of the primary symptoms include joint, muscle or eye pain, high fever, and a mild skin rash.
Malaria: Possibly the deadliest of all mosquito-borne illnesses, malaria is also one of the oldest, according to the AMCA. In any year, there could be as many as 500 million malaria cases reported around the world. The CDC stated that, in 2015, there were approximately 214 million global cases and 438,000 deaths attributed to malaria. With a wide-ranging incubation period between seven and 30 days, malaria as a disease can be classified in two distinct ways: severe or uncomplicated
- Severe symptoms can include hemolysis, anemia, kidney failure, low blood pressure and hypoglycemia
- Uncomplicated symptoms resemble the flu, when an infected individual has a headache, fever, body chills, vomiting and nausea. Luckily, unlike dengue and West Nile, there is a cure for malaria.
As we approach the summer months and more people spend time outdoors, it's important to take measures to minimize the possibility of being bitten by a mosquito. Of course, there is no way to avoid this completely, but applying topical insect repellents with active ingredients such as oil of eucalyptus, IR3535, DEET or Picaridin can be highly effective.