West Nile virus
You’ve no doubt heard of this one: West Nile virus is one of the most-feared mosquito-borne diseases, but most people infected have no symptoms, and therefore don’t even realize they have it—which means you have nothing to worry about. The CDC states that only 1% of those infected can develop a serious or fatal neurological disorder. However, there have been outbreaks in recent years, even in the United States. According to Brad Leahy of B.O.G. Pest Control, the most common areas to find West Nile outbreaks are those that follow bird migration patterns since mosquitoes that feed on birds infected with the virus are its carriers. So far, West Nile virus has made its way to every state, except for Hawaii and Alaska.
West Nile virus tends to behave like a case of the flu, causing headaches, body aches, fatigue, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes a rash. Signs that it could be heading to a more severe form include high fever, stiffness, seizures, coma, or paralysis in any part of the body. There is no vaccine available for West Nile, and severe cases require hospitalization.
To protect yourself against mosquitoes potentially carrying West Nile virus, keep your skin protected, wear mosquito repellant spray, and consider eating foods that defend against mosquito bites before you head outside.
According to Leahy, yellow fever mosquitoes, which are responsible for Zika, Chikungunya, and—yes—yellow fever, can also transmit dengue virus. Commonly found in tropical climates, dengue in the United States is mostly a threat along the southern border.
The CDC lists common symptoms of dengue virus as rash, muscle, joint, or bone pain, severe headache, eye pain, and mild bleeding from the nose or gums. More severe symptoms include vomiting blood, cold or clammy skin, black or tarry stools, and severe abdominal pain. Extreme cases can lead to circulatory failure and death. There’s currently no treatment for the disease, but most people can lower the severity of symptoms with pain-relieving drugs and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
The best prevention for dengue virus, like other mosquito borne diseases, is avoiding mosquito bites, especially if you’re already feeling ill or have a fever. Take this list of things mosquitoes absolutely hate on your next camping trip or outdoor adventure.
Western equine encephalitis
Typically transmitted by Culex mosquitoes—the type you usually see buzzing around your backyard—Western equine encephalitis (WEE) concentrates west of the Mississippi River in the United States. Its name comes from its presence in horses. It’s extremely rare, with only about 700 cases confirmed in the United States since 1964.
The mortality rate for WEE is low, and the elderly population is most at risk for severe, or fatal, symptoms. Most people develop flu-like symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, headache, and body aches. Unfortunately, there’s only a vaccine available for horses, so humans should avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn when these mosquitoes are most active.