All the Serious Diseases You Can Get From Mosquitoes

Mosquitos are practically unavoidable, especially during the summer months. You can take precautions to keep them away, such as spraying bug repellent and wearing light-colored clothing. But it’s unlikely you’ll be able to go the whole season without a single bite. Most of the time, mosquitos are harmless. But actually, a lot of them are harboring pretty serious diseases.

It’s extremely important to take measures to protect yourself from these annoying bugs. Here’s everything you can catch from a single mosquito bite.

Mosquito Bite

Mosquitos can be deadly. | nechaev-kon/iStock/Getty Images

Malaria

Mostly found in tropical regions, malaria causes serious fever and flu-like symptoms to those infected. It is a parasite that attacks the red blood cells, and it’s spread through mosquito bites.  If left untreated, malaria can be fatal. In most cases, malaria can be treated if caught early. But there are regions throughout the world that lack the resources to properly treat the disease. It kills more than one million people each year — mostly in Africa.

West Nile

West Nile is a virus commonly spread through mosquito bites. It is present throughout the United States and many other parts of the world. About 80% of those infected don’t show any symptoms. But 20% may develop a fever and other flu-like symptoms. However, in rare cases, West Nile can lead to more a serious illness, which can be fatal. Since it was first found in New York City in 1999, about 2,000 people have died from West Nile in the United States.

Chikungunya

Fever and joint pain are the most common symptoms of this virus, according to the CDC. Headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rash can also occur. While chikungunya is not an issue in the United States, you can get the disease from traveling to the Caribbean, where many Americans vacation. It’s also found in South America, Africa, and Asia. Right now, there is no way to prevent the disease except with mosquito repellent. Death is uncommon with chikungunya, but in those with weakened immune systems, it can be fatal.

Dengue

Dengue is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics, believe it or not. It’s a virus transmitted by mosquitos that causes high fever, severe headache, low white blood cell count, and rash, among other common symptoms. About 390 million cases of dengue are reported each year. Dengue can turn into something more serious called dengue hemorrhagic fever, which ultimately leads to about 25,000 fatalities each year.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is commonly found in Africa and South America. There is a vaccine, so it’s imperative to get vaccinated if you’re going to an at-risk country. Fever, chills, and nausea or vomiting are common symptoms, and the disease usually lasts about a week. Although there is a vaccine for the virus, there is no treatment. There are two phases of the disease, and most people recover from phase one and never experience phase two. But of those who experience phase two, about half may die. Yellow fever kills about 30,000 people each year.

Zika

Zika is common in the Caribbean and South America but can also be found in Southern parts of the U.S. The disease doesn’t show too many symptoms, but flu-like symptoms can occur. The most dangerous side effect of Zika is the damage it can do to an unborn baby. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not travel to Zika-ridden areas for fear of their baby contracting microcephaly. Microcephaly means the baby is born with a smaller head and may have a brain that doesn’t develop normally.

Encephalitis

A viral infection from mosquitos can lead to encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. Primarily, eastern equine and western equine encephalitis can be passed on to humans from mosquitos. There are only a few cases reported each year in the United States, but it can be a very serious illness. Most people will recover from the disease, but about 5-15% of cases in the U.S. are fatal. Eastern and western equine encephalitis are named based on their region; the western form is more common in the western U.S., and the eastern is more common in the eastern U.S.

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