In May of 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an alarming report indicating that since 2004, vector-borne diseases have more than tripled. The report indicated that between 2004-2016, there were a total of 642,602 cases of 16 different diseases reported to them from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, and that number is likely the very least, as cases are generally under-reported.
A couple mosquito-borne diseases, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, caused outbreaks in the US for the first time. These, along with dengue, were almost exclusively transmitted in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they were periodically epidemic. West Nile virus, also occasionally epidemic, was widely distributed in the continental United States, where it is the major mosquito-borne disease.
However, as people travel more to areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are much more common, there is always an increased risk that they can become infected by a mosquito and then bring that disease back home, which would cause another outbreak. Such is what happened with Zika virus in the continental U.S. in 2016.
Here is a brief summary of the mosquito-borne diseases mentioned in the CDC Vital Signs report.
Reported Mosquito-transmitted diseases
West Nile Virus
West Nile virus (WNV) is the most widely-known mosquito-borne illness in the U.S. In the 13 years of the CDC study, there were a total of 31,919 reported cases, although the actual number of cases is much greater, since the majority of people who contract WNV don’t show symptoms and therefore, don’t go to a doctor.
Those who do show symptoms are generally mild ones, which include as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. More serious West Nile virus cases generally occur in one out of every 150 people infected, and those symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. People who are over age 60 are more susceptible to more severe West Nile, as are those with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants. There is no known vaccine or specific medications for West Nile, and treatment is generally by symptoms.
Dengue is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. Like malaria, it is rare in the continental United States and those who get infected with it are travelers to areas where it is endemic, like Puerto Rico and parts of Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding.
Dengue fever can last up to seven days and include more serious symptoms like failure of the circulatory system and shock, which can lead to death. There is no specific medication or treatment for dengue or dengue fever, and is managed by treating the symptoms, like taking pain relievers, getting a lot of rest, and drinking fluids. It is not transmitted from person to person, although it can be from a mother to her unborn child.
Chikungunya virus is another one picked up by travelers to areas where it is endemic, and a growing problem here in the United States. Outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Indian and Pacific Oceans. The most common symptoms of Chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Again, it is not a contagious disease transmitted between people, but it is also known to be transmitted from mother to unborn child, though rarely.
La Crosse Encephalitis
California serogroup viruses include LaCrosse encephalitis. Like West Nile virus, most people who are infected show no symptoms, although severe cases are known to cause inflammation of the brain, and can include seizures, coma, and paralysis. Most cases of LACV disease have been reported from upper Midwestern, mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.
Saint Louis Encephalitis
St. Louis encephalitis virus often shows no symptoms; those who become ill have symptoms of fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Severe cases often occur in older adults and can include brain inflammation. Like others, there is no specific medication or treatment and is managed by treating symptoms.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE) predominantly affects horses and is rare in humans. But it is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. Most cases occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. Most persons infected with EEE have no apparent illness. Severe cases of EEE(involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma. Again, there is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms.
Yellow Fever Virus
Yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. Yellow fever is a very rare, but another one picked up by travelers. Illness ranges from a fever with aches and pains to severe liver disease with bleeding and yellowing skin (jaundice). Yellow fever infection is diagnosed based on laboratory testing, a person’s symptoms, and travel history. There is no medicine to treat or cure infection.
Zika virus became a nationally notifiable condition in 2016.
Then there’s malaria, which was technically eradicated in the United States over 50 years ago. The vast majority of malaria cases diagnosed in the United States occur in travelers who picked it up while traveling to areas where it is rampant, such as Africa and India. Malaria is still a serious problem in those places and other regions of the world, and still kills people, especially children, every day.
Knowing that this is a worldwide problem, Mosquito Squad proudly partners with Malaria No More, a global nonprofit dedicated to eradicate malaria wherever it is found, because nobody should die from a mosquito bite. Not only do we donate $1 from every treatment purchased to Malaria No More, but we’re very “hands on,” even traveling to Africa to educate locals on the mosquito-borne illnesses and the importance of prevention, including distributing mosquito bed netting. Our owner, Brent Tatum, is an active participant in this effort.
Call Mosquito Squad of Greater Charleston Today: (843) 258-5415
Mosquito-borne diseases are scary, and even though many don’t generally occur here on the continental United States soil, as we mentioned, it only takes one traveler to another country to get infected by a single mosquito to bring the disease over here and potentially cause an outbreak. The best way to protect yourself and your family from situations like this is to avoid mosquitoes all together where you spend the most time — your own yard. Mosquito Squad’s traditional barrier treatment will eliminate nearly 90% of mosquitoes in your yard for up to 21 straight days, or your money back. Call Mosquito Squad of Greater Charleston today at (843) 258-5415 to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-borne illnesses and make your outside time at home much more enjoyable. We look forward to helping you, and to helping you take back your yard!