Although the term mosquito is usually sufficient for any person, mosquito researchers have actually discovered over 3000 distinct mosquito species worldwide. Because of this amazing genetic diversity, mosquitoes have adapted to live in conditions ranging from topical to arctic and are found on every continent except Antarctica.
Mosquitoes: More Than Just A Nuisance
More than just simple pests, mosquitoes are blood-sucking transmitters of serious diseases. When many people think of dangerous creatures, bears or sharks often come to mind. However, despite its size, the mosquito is, by far, the world’s deadliest creature. Every year, 300-500 million people will contract malaria and approximately 2.5 million people will die as a result.
Here in the United States, we are generally less aware of the dangers of mosquitoes. We take great measures to control their population. Over 1,000 Americans will become seriously ill or die from a mosquito-borne illness, each year. Many more will experience a minor to moderate mosquito borne reaction. With less capable immune systems, children and the elderly are the most susceptible to many mosquito-borne diseases.
Mosquitoes As Vectors
Mosquitoes are organisms that are capable of carrying and spreading diseases (vectors). These are some common diseases transmitted by the mosquito to humans and animals.
– Dengue fever (rare in the U.S.; 100 million cases worldwide)
– Eastern equine encephalitis (eastern U.S., but rare; 33% mortality)
– Heartworm (threat to dogs throughout continental U.S.)
– Japanese encephalitis (rare outbreaks in U.S. territories in the Pacific)
– La Crosse encephalitis (about 100 U.S. cases annually)
– Malaria (in the U.S., acquired mainly in FL; 1 million deaths annually worldwide)
– Rift Valley fever (endemic to Africa)
– St. Louis encephalitis (4,651 U.S. cases from 1964-2005; 5%-30% mortality rate)
– West Nile virus (663 cases and 30 deaths in the U.S. in 2009)
– Yellow fever (last U.S. epidemic was in New Orleans in 1905)