Mosquitoes are known to transmit several serious diseases.  These diseases enter the body while a mosquito is sucking a person’s blood.  The mouthparts of a mosquito are designed to puncture human skin.  During feeding, mosquitoes spit saliva and other juices, including pathogens if present, into the host’s bloodstream.  Not all mosquitoes carry diseases, and a person may come into contact with mosquitoes their whole life and never receive a mosquito-borne disease.  However, a single infected mosquito is capable of spreading disease to many people.

Mosquito diseases include arboviral encephalitis, dengue fever, malaria, rift valley fever, yellow fever, and west nile virus.  The symptoms of encephalitis are generally mistaken for the flu.  In the rare case that encephalitis progresses to frank encephalitis, the brain can begin to swell.  This can cause severe health complications, and should be treated by a health professional immediately.  No vaccine or antibiotic is available. Physicians may act to reduce swelling of the brain and to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood stream.

West Nile virus is a growing problem in the United States.  This virus takes 2-15 days to begin showing symptoms.  The most common form of this mosquito disease is the west nile fever.  Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, and a rash on the trunk of the body.  If these symptoms worsen, consult a health professional immediately.

Dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever are problems in developing countries.  However, travelers are susceptible to these mosquito diseases.  Seek medical attention if you return home sick from a trip in areas that pose a higher risk of mosquito disease.