Top Mosquito-Borne illnesses in the U.S. — Erin’s student essay

Top Mosquito-Borne illnesses in The U.S

Mosquito-borne diseases kill upwards of one million people every year across the globe! In the United States, mosquito-borne diseases can affect not only people, but animals too. Some of the most prominent diseases caused by mosquitoes in the States are Malaria, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Dengue, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Malaria, probably the most well known of these illnesses, was first introduced to the United States in the early 1900s but was not well controlled until decades later in the 1940s.

Though there are still sometimes small breakouts of Malaria in various areas of America today, they usually disappear quickly, and only about fifteen hundred cases five deaths a year occur from malaria, usually from travelers. 

West Nile Virus (WNV) is another well known mosquito-borne illness that has become more common in recent years. The virus is usually spread by mosquitoes who have preyed on infected birds, who then spread the virus to humans and other animals.

There are around two thousand cases and a hundred thirty deaths each year in America caused by WNV, which can cause meningitis or encephalitis in victims, which is usually the reason people die from WNV.

 Zika Virus also causes a few hundred cases in the United States each year, however these cases seem to be from travel and not locally transmitted. Though it is rarely deadly, it can cause serious pregnancy complications.

mosquito bites.

Dengue, like Zika, is another disease mainly from travel, and is not likely to be transmitted locally. There are about twelve hundred cases each year; the symptoms can be painful but most usually recover quickly.

Macro shot of a mosquito on human skin sucking blood

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is one of the most serious mosquito-borne diseases, and affect many horses and humans each year. It is not very common, with less than fifty reported cases each year, but the mortality rate is very high at around 50%. It can cause sever complications and damage to the central nervous system. Symptoms may include seizures and extremely high temperatures which can lead to comas or brain damage even in those who survive.

Traveling to South American and Asian countries may increase your exposure to these and other diseases, which is how many cases are transmitted to Americans each year, however many mosquito-borne illnesses are also transferred locally. Unfortunately, it is hard to completely avoid mosquito bites, especially during peak summer months, no matter what precautions are taken. Using bug sprays, wearing pants and long sleeves, and limiting time outside, especially at twilight, may all help decrease the chances of bites and contracting these illnesses. Additionally, many of the symptoms of mosquito-borne illnesses are similar to the common flu and cold, so the number of cases reported for each disease will never entirely be accurate as many people fail to recognize they have uncommon diseases.

Author: Erin Valenzuela

University of California, Santa Barbara
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