Although we’re man-size and mosquitoes are fly-size, everyone’s afraid of mosquito bites. Hence, it’s imperative to know how to get rid of mosquitoes and mosquito bites. Also, the diseases caused by mosquitoes and the diseases spread by mosquitoes!
Since we’re going to be talking a lot about mosquitoes and diseases caused by mosquitoes, let’s begin with the origin. No, not of mosquitoes, but of the word ‘mosquito’ itself. The word has deep Spanish and Portuguese roots. The simplest translation is ‘little fly’, although the native Hispanic people used the word ‘zancudos’ to describe these insects. That is a Spanish word that means ‘long-legged’. Thus, mosquito = long-legged little fly.
The world is full of different people and tribes that will all use several names for a single creature. For now, let’s just stick with the globally accepted term called ‘mosquito’. These are thousands (around 3,500) of species of these little flying creatures, who survive mainly off fruit and plant nectar. However, female mosquitoes need the protein available in blood in order to develop her eggs. Once received, she will rest for a couple of days and then lay her eggs. These are around 200-300 eggs each time. Wow, that’s a lot of mosquitoes and a lot of mosquito bites!
Types of mosquitoes:
Everyone who reads this blog should eventually know how to get rid of mosquitoes and mosquito bites. For starters, we’re going to name a few species that you should know about. Also, we’ll talk about the harmful effects and infectious diseases caused by mosquitoes:
Culex is a vast genus of mosquitoes with over 20 sub-genera and over 1,000 well-known species of this mosquito. There are also frequent reports of newly found Culex species. This genus usually prefers to not bite humans. However, they still carry infectious mosquito diseases such as malaria, dengue and various forms of encephalitis (brain inflammation). You can avoid these mosquito bites and diseases caused by mosquitoes. Their common lifespan is around 2 weeks and you can find them in most places all around the world.
Breeding: Stagnant water in outdoor objects (barrels, cans, pots)
This genus of mosquitoes is easier to identify as they have a certain type of black and white marking over their bodies. They are found on all continents of the world (except Antarctica) but they are active only during the daytime. Again, they can spread dangerous mosquito diseases. These include dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile fever, chikungunya, Zika virus and forms of encephalitis. However, this species of mosquito bites only during the day and before dusk.
Here’s a type of mosquito that Indians are more familiar with. The anopheles mosquito feeds on human blood and is most popularly known for transmitting the fatal mosquito disease called malaria. This is one of the diseases caused by mosquitoes that is reported to have killed more than 1 million people worldwide each year. The Anopheles mosquitoes that carry the malarial parasite are said to be strictly nocturnal. This means that their peak biting hours are in the night.
Breeding: Water bodies surrounded by wild plants (swamps, marshes, ponds)
‘Tis the season
Well, it’s monsoons in the sub-continent. Along with the joys that come from watching the heavens open up for months together are the sorrows of sicknesses and diseases spread by mosquitoes. Especially those caused by these flying pests. The change of climate is not the only thing that will affect you this season as mosquitoes love water, and water is all over the country at this time, on roads, in gutters, in flower pots, in gardens, empty spaces and everywhere possible. Now the question is – “Are you ready for mosquitoes and the diseases they are capable of spreading during this season?”
These parasites have been around since the Jurassic period, so it’s going to be tough to find a permanent solution to keep them away. However, you can surely do your bit to protect yourself and your families from the harmful diseases that they are known to transmit. Firstly, let’s go through some suggestions on how to keep mosquitoes away from our homes:
1) Unwanted water lying around
Done with your shower? Ensure you clean up and not leave your bathroom wet or water lying around in buckets. The same goes for your kitchen, garage or any other rooms in your household. Unwanted water lying around will just allow malaria and dengue mosquitoes to breed in your house. During this season, there is bound to be moisture in and around your household. Ensure you keep things as dry as possible. Any stagnant water body could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
2) Keeping doors/windows open
While ventilation and the circulation of fresh air in our homes are very vital, make sure you don’t let mosquitoes in as well. Invest in a good mesh that could let the air in, while keeping mosquitoes and other insects out. As mentioned earlier, the Anopheles mosquito is a nocturnal genus. If not all day, at least ensure your doors and windows are locked by the time the sun starts setting.
3) Maintaining untidy gardens
Mosquitoes love overgrown plants and weeds, as these plants give them a place to rest and survive the varying climatic conditions. If you don’t tidy your lawns, they could become infested with mosquitoes, especially during this season. Make trimming (grass not more than 3 inches long) a regular habit, to ensure that those flying and biting pests stay off your lawns.
Let’s also explain why we are guiding you on ‘how to keep mosquitoes away’. One may think that it’s okay if they lose a little bit of blood to a flying creature. However, these creatures carry various diseases and while your blood transfers to them, these diseases could transfer to you. Mosquitoes just have a lifespan of a few weeks, while we have years and years ahead of us, so we need to be careful. Here’s a list of frequently reported mosquito-caused diseases in India (especially during this season), that have often proved to be fatal:
Disease caused by Mosquitoes
This disease has been a problem in our country for ages. The economic loss in India was estimated to be around Rs.10,000 million per year, as per a 1935 study. Around the time of independence in 1947, the country’s population was estimated to be around 330 million. Out of this, around 75 million suffered from malaria each year. The problem continued and the direct mortality rate was also affected by nearly 1 million a year due to deaths from malaria. All these stats show how malaria has plagued our country for decades.
Now of course, with scientific progress and healthcare available more easily as it was in the past, the number of deaths decreased substantially. However, it is still a massive nuisance. If you think you’re safe, think again. According to the World Malaria Report of 2014, only 11% of India’s population is said to be living in malaria-free areas.
Cause: Only female Anopheles mosquitoes that have bit you after biting an infected person.
This is a disease that has become more widespread over the last 10 years in India. The country saw a doubling up of cases of dengue from 2014 to 2015. It is said that over 3 billion people in the world are in danger of falling prey to the dengue mosquito. The disease can be caused by four viruses – DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4. These can affect the same human multiple times in their life.
While malaria has been around for ages, dengue is relatively new. However, the rate at which the number of dengue cases is rising is alarming. Between 2012 (50,022 cases) and 2016 (129,166), there was a 157% growth in the number of dengue cases. Comparatively, there was 2% growth in malaria cases in the same period. Similarly, the number of deaths recorded due to the dengue mosquito in India in 2016 was 245. There were 331 deaths due to malaria. However, let’s not forget that the number of dengue cases reported was around 10% that of the number of cases of malaria. Worrisome, isn’t it?
Cause: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying the above-mentioned dengue viruses.
This disease is said to have originated in Africa and after being non-prevalent in India, it made a re-entry in the year 2006. In that year, there were hundreds of cases reported in different states of the country. It’s caused by the same dengue mosquito, but Chikungunya is said to not be fatal. However, the symptoms are severe and could cause limb deformities that could go on to last for months. These symptoms include fatigue, fever, vomiting, nausea, headache, muscle pain and severe joint pain. There is no cure or vaccine for this disease.
The number of reported cases of Chikungunya was falling until 2012. After this, it has shown the highest growth rate among all mosquito-caused diseases in India. Between 2012 and 2016, there was a 300% growth rate in the number of reported cases of this disease.
“We have no evidence to prove that chikungunya has killed people in India. Chikungunya-positive people who have died, died due to co-morbid conditions,” said former head of the NVBDCP (National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme), Dr.AC Dhariwal, on media reports of people dying due to Chikungunya in India.
Cause: Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes
4) Japanese encephalitis
The number of cases of people in India being affected by the Japanese encephalitis virus is on the rise as well. There has been over a 100% rise in reported cases between 2012 and 2016. As per reports, 140 Japanese encephalitis deaths in 2012 grew to 283 in 2016. A slowly spreading viral brain fever seen more commonly in eastern India.
Caused by a flavivirus, this disease affects both animals and humans. It is said to be most prevalent in pigs and wading birds. A Culex mosquito can bite infected animals and then transmit the same to human beings. Again, there is no cure for this disease, and treatment is only to relieve the symptoms. Beware of this mosquito bites. However, vaccines are available to prevent infection from the same.
Cause: Culex mosquitoes carrying the Japanese encephalitis virus
Don’t want diseases spread by mosquitoes? Avoid mosquito bites.
Let’s talk about mosquito repellents now. If you want to ensure that you don’t get mosquito bites, repellents are your best bet. Repellents are items, substances or things that repel mosquitoes. In other words, they keep the flying parasites away from our bodies. These repellents can be segregated into natural and artificial repellents. And while they may be more effective, these artificial repellents may have adverse effects on your health and environment.
Natural mosquito repellents
There are plenty of things we can use or plenty of ‘mosquito traps’ we can create. We can ensure that while we repel these flying parasites we can avoid using any chemical ingredient. The following plants/herbs/flowers in your household will help as they naturally drive mosquitoes away. And also they reduce the possibilities of mosquito diseases:
- Citronella grass (lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena)
- Eucalyptus/Lemon eucalyptus
Plant these herbs in your garden or anywhere you can find a place in your homes. These are natural mosquito repellents. Essential oils such as cinnamon oil, lemon eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, soyabean oil, tea tree oil and others also have the same effect on mosquitoes. They can help stay safe from diseases spread by mosquitoes. Try putting a couple of drops of essential oils on an old cotton cloth. And then mix them with the clothes in your dryer. Never know. Might do wonders!
Artificial mosquito repellents
Mosquito repellent liquids, creams, lotions, diffusers, vaporizers, liquidizers, coils and the likes are bestsellers in today’s world. Watching advertisements of mosquitoes dropping dead to the ground when you switch on these mosquito repellent machines makes us want them as soon as possible. Now, let’s look at the difference between using diffusers and vaporizers, and which repellent is ideal for home use.
Firstly, what are mosquito vaporizers? A vaporizer, also known as a liquidizer, is a mechanism which converts the liquid within the body into a vapour that repels mosquitoes. A graphite rod inside the diffuser comes in contact with the mosquito liquid. This rob absorbs the liquid sending in into the liquidiser. Transforming it instantly into vapours to spread across the room.
These are bestsellers for years and don’t cost as much as essential oils and growing mosquito-repelling plants would.
These are very effective for use indoors (useless outdoors).
No need of application
Unlike creams, there is no need for any sort of application while using vaporizers. Just plug in and switch on.
Liquid-based products are smoke free and do not cause any smoke or fumes unlike mosquito repelling coils and mats.
The one disadvantage is that they contain poisonous chemicals that could cause acute headaches and asthmatic symptoms. The solution for this – Try using herbal or natural vaporizers.
Unlike those brands that promise you a ‘Good Night’s’ sleep, mosquito diffusers are 100% natural.
They use fragrant oils which help spread a good aroma at home, always.
Doesn’t consume electricity
Unlike plug-in vaporizers, diffusers don’t require the need for electricity.
Essential oils help to keep the mosquitoes away. Also, it helps in better breathing and has other health benefits too.
While vaporizers could be termed as ‘more useful’ than diffusers, they could have adverse effects on your health. You take the call as to whether you wish to use mosquito repellent diffusers or the vaporizers in your household. Don’t forget to select the right anti-mosquito machine.
In case you have followed the necessary precautions but still get mosquito bites, it’s vital to spot the possibility of a disease as soon as possible. Common symptoms of malaria include chills, fever, sweating, shivering, fatigue and more. Dengue has the similar symptoms, along with rashes, and muscle and joint pain. Fever and severe joint pain are the main symptoms of Chikungunya. When a transmitting mosquito bites you these symptoms start to show in a couple of weeks. So, stay alert always for such symptoms. Take the patient to a doctor as soon as possible.
Kudos to you if you aren’t doing what attracts mosquitoes to your homes by doing what we’ve listed at the top of this article. However, sometimes you may still have a mosquito infestation issue even if you are trimming your lawns, closing your windows and using natural and/or artificial mosquito repellent tools for mosquito control. In that case, your last resort is contacting your local mosquito pest control service. These guys ensure a complete clean-up of mosquitoes in your house and ensure they don’t come back to bother you for quite a while. Pest control services like HiCare pest control specialize in cleanups of residential and commercial properties, to ensure you don’t fall prey to mosquito bites and diseases spread by mosquitoes. Could be worth a try!