The South is known for many things like warm weather, sweet tea, and southern hospitality. Unfortunately, the south is also known for another thing – mosquitoes! Mosquitoes thrive in warm, humid climates like we have here in the southern United States. As the weather warms, mosquito season begins and peaks in the mid-summer months. Mosquitoes can breed in less than 1 inch of water so the South offers them a multitude of habitats to expand their populations.

Mosquito bites cause irritation and itching of the skin. Besides this nuisance, mosquitoes can also transmit diseases that can threaten the health of both humans and animals. Here are some of the most common diseases that can be spread by mosquitoes:

MALARIA

  • Spread by Anopheles species of mosquito
  • About 1700 cases per year in the US
  • Most cases are from travelers returning from malaria infected countries
  • Serious disease, sometimes fatal
  • Symptoms include high fevers, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, nausea and vomiting
  • Curable if diagnosed and treated promptly
  • The potential for the disease to re-emerge in the US is present especially in the South

DENGUE

  • Spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito
  • Rarely occurs in the US but rampant in Puerto Rico and Latin America
  • Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (especially of the nose and gums)
  • No vaccine to prevent in the US but there are vaccines registered for use in other countries
  • No specific treatment; treat symptomatically with pain relievers, fever reducers, rest, and fluids

CHIKUNGUNYA

  • Spread by the Aedes species of mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus)
  • Very similar to dengue and Zika
  • Symptoms include fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rash
  • Rarely fatal but extremely debilitating
  • No vaccine to prevent
  • Treatment is symptomatic with rest, fluids, fever reducers, and pain relievers

WEST NILE VIRUS

  • West Nile Virus has been detected in over 30 species of mosquitoes
  • Cases have been reported in all of the continental US
  • Most people (8/10) do not have any symptoms at all
  • 1/5 people have a high fever
  • 1/150 people develop encephalitis which can be fatal
  • No vaccine to prevent
  • Treatment is symptomatic with fever reducers and pain relievers

ZIKA

  • Spread by the Aedes species of mosquito
  • Also spread by sexual contact and from pregnant mothers to their fetus
  • Cases have been reported in all of the continental United States
  • Symptoms include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain
  • Zika can also cause birth defects when passed to babies from their mothers during pregnancy
  • No vaccine to prevent
  • Treatment is symptomatic with rest, fluids, pain relievers, and fever reducers

PREVENTION:

Now that you know some of the diseases you can contract from mosquitoes what can you do to prevent them? Avoiding mosquito bites is the #1 way to prevent all of the diseases mentioned above. Check out these tips to avoid mosquito bites and help keep them away from yourself and your home.

  1. Eliminate standing water around your home, especially in old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys, and any other containers that can hold water.
  2. Empty and change the water in bird baths, fountains, wading pools, and rain barrels at least once a week.
  3. Empty and change water in outdoor pet bowls daily.
  4. Check gutters for clogs which can cause water to pool. Clean them regularly, especially during the summer season. Consider installing gutter guards to help prevent clogs.
  5. Drain and fill any temporary pools of water around your home with dirt. Try to get your yard as level as possible.
  6. Keep swimming pool water treated appropriately and circulating.
  7. Make sure window and door screens are in good repair. Cover any gaps in walls, doors, and windows to keep mosquitoes from getting into your home.
  8. Keep doors and windows closed and stay indoors as much as possible, especially during the summer months.
  9. Keep your grass cut short and rake up any fallen leaves. Mosquitoes like to rest on grass during the day so keeping it short will eliminate this. Leaves can hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed so keep them raked up, as well.
  10. Replace your outdoor lights with yellow “bug lights.” These don’t eliminate mosquitoes but they do attract less of them than regular lights do.
  11. If you have to go outside, wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks to protect as much skin as possible.
  12. If you have to be outside in areas where there are a large number of mosquitoes, use head nets, long sleeves, and long pants.
  13. Use EPA-registered mosquito repellents but  be sure to follow precautions and instructions carefully.
  14. Avoid using scented bath products if possible. While the connection is unknown, studies have shown that mosquitoes seem to be attracted to fragrances found in shampoo, perfume, cologne, and lotion.