Although we have lived with mosquitoes our entire lives, how much do we really know about them? The following are some interesting facts about our pesky pests, according to the American Mosquito Control Association:
FINALLY. It’s spring! And that means time for mosquito control! Why? Because according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Zika virus disease is now a nationally notifiable condition. And along with the West Nile Virus, EEE and Lyme Disease, which we have known about for a while now, people should take greater care when playing, hiking, camping and even walking barefoot outdoors. Please note – this is not meant to scare everyone, but to make you aware of the growing trend.
ZIKA: As of this February, 49 states have reported over 5,000 Zika virus disease cases to ArboNET2 over the past two years. ArboNET is a national arboviral surveillance system managed by the CDC and state health departments.
Of the reported 5,040 cases, some 4,748 were in travelers returning from affected areas. These folks contracted it elsewhere and brought it back. But more concerning were the 220 cases acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission in Florida (214) and Texas (6). Another 72 cases were acquired through other routes, including sexual transmission (44), congenital infection (26), laboratory transmission (1), and person-to-person through unknown route (1).
There’s a lot of talk these days about West Nile Virus (WNV), and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). The news is filled with reports about how the Zika Virus is making its way north from South America. There are documented cases all along the east coast right up into New England. So, let’s take a moment to understand what we’re dealing with. We’ll first talk about EEE and WNV. In an upcoming blog, we’ll dive into the Zika virus.
Eastern equine encephalitis is a rare but serious viral disease that is also caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito with more severe symptoms than for WNV. EEE is an arbovirus, meaning that it’s spread by insects. Mosquitoes first acquire this virus from birds (the source) and then can transmit the infection to horses, other animals, and, in some cases, people.
West Nile Virus (WNV) was first detected in the US in 1999, in Queens, a part of New York City. WNV can live in many types of birds and is passed bird-to-bird by certain types of mosquitoes. Occasionally, an infected mosquito will pass the virus to humans or other animals.
Generally, most healthy people do not get sick from the virus, but it may cause symptoms. When a human gets ill from WNV, they may have symptoms including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord); encephalitis and meningitis can also be caused by head injury, bacterial infections or, more commonly, other viral infections.
How EEE & WNV is spread
As already mentioned, infected mosquitoes are the primary known source for WNV and EEE transmission to humans. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, it becomes infected. The infected mosquito could then bite a human and transmit the infection. Person-to-person contact such as touching, kissing, or caring for someone who is infected will not transmit the virus. No known transmission has occurred from birds to people. But since dead birds may have the virus, one should not handle birds or any dead animals with their bare hands.
So what can you do to lessen the chances of being bit by an infected mosquito?