Depending on what part of the country – or the world for that matter – that you live in, it seemed as though this winter would never end. Between the blistering cold winds, the mountains of snow, and the feeling of being trapped in one’s own home; now that the warmer months are upon us, it seems to be unanimously agreed that it didn’t come soon enough. But those cold months are in the past, for now, we have what are arguably the best seasons ahead of us – spring and summer.
With the changing seasons comes a changing mindset. As we shed our winter coats and our furry sweaters and dawn our cotton and linen attire, we no longer fear the outdoors, rather, we embrace it; along with everything else that comes with it. The days begin to get longer; beaches and lakes begin to look more and more appealing, and the prospect of sipping a drink with an umbrella in it on a patio is almost too great to ignore.
From outdoor movies and festivals to camping with family and friends, it isn’t so much what you do during these warm months that is so great, rather, it is the fact that you are doing them outdoors that truly separates this time of year from the rest. However, much like the dreaded winter cold and flu is always a concern during those frosty months, it should be known that spring and summer are not without their potential perils. Although spring and summer arguably bring out the best in us and the list of activities and events significantly grows during this time of year, it isn’t only us that come out from hibernation, for with the warm weather, inevitably, one of the most dreaded, annoying, and potentially deadly aspects of the season is upon us – mosquitos.
Unless you are a spider or frog, in all likelihood, you are among the entire world’s population who despises these tiny winged vampires. Sadly, much like the start of baseball is iconicity “summer,” so is the arrival of mosquitos, and their arrival seems to plague us just about everywhere we go when outside.
When a mosquito bites you, it uses its proboscis (needle-like appendage) to pierce through the outer layer of skin, looking for a blood vessel or capillary. When it finds when, the mosquito’s saliva acts as an anticoagulant, keeping the blood from clotting and the mosquitos source of nourishment flowing.
After the mosquito is done feeding (or after you have swatted or squished it) your body releases a chemical called histamine in order to combat the foreign substances; which in this case, is the mosquito’s saliva. This causes the blood vessels around the bite to enlarge, making the bump that many of us are familiar with on our skin. It also causes an irruption of the nerves around the bite, which is why we feel so itchy after becoming a mosquito’s dinner.
The above is common, run of the mill experience that most people have with mosquitos. They bite us, we itch, we scratch and we ultimately get over it. However, sometimes a mosquito bite is more than just a mosquito bite. Sometimes, when a mosquito bites you, it could be carrying a disease that can infect the bitten, leaving them wishing that an itch was all they got.
Mosquitoes are carriers of some of the most serious and potentially deadly diseases that modern science knows of. Sadly, however, for most us, it is pretty much impossible to tell if a mosquito is carrying a disease until after one is already infected.
So what are the potential risks of infection that we all face going into these warm summer months? Glad you asked because here are 10 diseases that you can get from a mosquito. Needless to say, we would go with the extra strength mosquito repellent this year.
Japanese encephalitis virus is a flavivirus related to dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile viruses, and like them is spread by mosquitoes. This disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia and the western Pacific. The first case of this viral disease was documented back in 1871 in Japan.
For the most part, people who are infected with Japanese encephalitis won't present any symptoms and if they do, they are relatively mild, including fever and headache. However, approximately 1 in 250 infections result in a severe clinical illness. According to the World Health Organization, this is characterized by rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and ultimately death. The case-fatality rate can be as high as 30% among those with disease symptoms. Of those who survive, 20%–30% suffer permanent intellectual, behavioral or neurological problems such as paralysis, recurrent seizures or the inability to speak.
While there are only 24 countries that are affected by Japanese encephalitis, those 24 countries have a combined population of more than 3 billions people. At the moment, there is no antiviral treatment for patients with Japanese encephalitis, and treatment is of a supportive nature, heard to relieve symptoms and stabilize the patient. Although there is no treatment, there are effective vaccines available to prevent the disease.