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Mosquito borne diseases

Whether it was on holiday or at home, we’ve all woken up to find ourselves covered in those itchy red marks left behind by mosquitoes (some more than others). On top of providing us with the itchiest insect bites known to man, mosquitoes are also behind spreading some nasty diseases such as malaria and yellow fever!

Mosquito Diseases

Mosquitoes are responsible for the spread and transmission of several harmful diseases (around 13), infecting around 700 million people and causing 1 million deaths each year! This makes mosquitoes the world’s deadliest animal!

Mosquito-borne diseases are those of a vector nature and are transmitted biologically. This means that the viruses in question lives inside the mosquitoes body and is transmitted through a mosquito bite.

It’s important to note that the majority of mosquito diseases occur in underdeveloped countries. However, due to factors such as climate change and global trade, certain mosquito diseases are on the move across the globe. Take the Asian Tiger Mosquito, for example, its natural habitat is throughout the tropics of Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and Indian Ocean Islands, as well as China and Japan. This biting insect has become one of the fastest spreading animal species, appearing in 28 countries outside of its native range. The Asian Tiger Mosquito was also responsible for the Chikungunya disease outbreak in Italy during 2007.

The most common types of mosquito-borne diseases

Mosquitoes are responsible for spreading a range of harmful diseases across the globe, which can vary greatly depending on the species and the location. However, the most common types of mosquito diseases are Malaria, Dengue fever, West Nile Virus and Yellow fever.


Number of cases (per year): 207 million
Areas affected: Africa, Asia, Central and South America

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted through mosquito bites and is caused by parasitic protozoans. The WHO states that about 3.2 billion people, almost half the world’s population are at risk of malaria, with 85% of reported malaria cases in 2015 came from sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria Symptoms

Symptoms of malaria usually appear between 7 and 18 days after becoming infected, but in some cases symptoms may not appear until a year has passed, and sometimes longer.

Symptoms include:

  • High temperature
  • Sweats and chills
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle Pains
  • Diarrhoea

Although the symptoms of malaria are those shared by the flu, linking these to a mosquito bite can help identify the disease.

Malaria treatment

Although malaria is quite lethal, it is entirely preventable and treatable disease. The treatment of malaria is not something that can be done with antibiotics. Treatment for malaria should be carried out by doctors, in order to successfully eliminate the Plasmodium parasite from the patient’s blood.

The reason why the death toll for malaria is quite high is because the majority of recorded cases occur in underdeveloped countries were doctors and resources are scarce.

Dengue Fever

Number of cases (per year): 309 million
Areas affected: Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, Pacific Island, Caribbean, Mexico, Africa, Central and South America.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection. In recent years, the number of dengue fever cases as grown dramatically, and now around half of the world's population is now at risk.  Dengue fever is usually found in tropical, and subtropical climates, and is present in urban and semi-urban areas, were both human and mosquito activity is high. It is estimated that 3900 million people, in 128 countries are at risk of contracted dengue fever.

Symptoms of Dengue Fever

Dengue fever symptoms usually begin four to six days after infection and include:

  • High fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Mild bleeding from nose and gums

It is important to note that sometimes symptoms of dengue fever can be mistake for those of the flu and other viral infections.

Dengue fever treatment

There is currently no cure for dengue fever. Treatment for dengue fever involves trying to relieve the symptoms. This can be done by drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol. The best way to treat dengue fever is to avoid catching it all together. This can be done through simple mosquito prevention techniques.

West Nile Virus

Number of cases (per year): 30 thousand.
Areas affected: Africa, Europe, Middle East, North America, West Asia, Australia<

Another mosquito-borne disease is West Nile virus. Unlike malaria and dengue, this diseases is also present in western countries. Although West Nile virus is seen as not that serious, 1 in 100 cases develop into infections of the brain and spinal cord.  West Nile virus can cause a fatal neurological disease in humans such as encephalitis or meningitis.

West nile virus symptoms

Approximately 80% of people infected don’t show any symptoms of west nile virus. However, other people develop a fever with other symptoms, this happens around 1 in 5 cases.

Those that do develop west nile virus symptoms will experience:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body Aches
  • Joint Pains
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

Most people which develop the above symptoms for west nile virus will recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks and sometimes months.

West nile virus treatment

Treatment for west nile virus is very minimal as there is no vaccine or specific treatment available. However, over the counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever. In severe cases of west nile virus hospitalisation is needed to receive supportive treatment.

Yellow Fever

Number of cases (per year): 200 thousand
Areas affected: South America, Africa, Asia, Australia

The yellow fever virus is another disease spread by mosquitoes, the yellow in the name refers to the jaundice affect some patients inhabit. This mosquito borne disease causes 30, 000 deaths worldwide each year, with 90 % occurring in Africa. Yellow fever is an epidemic in tropical areas, with the number of cases increasing over the past two decades due to deforestation, urbanisation, population movements and climate change.

Yellow fever symptoms

The symptoms of yellow fever occur 3 to 6 days after transmission. Most cases only cause a mild infection expressing flu like symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Back Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Where these yellow fever symptoms occur, infection lasts only three to four days.

However, in 15% of yellow fever cases people enter a second phase of the disease. In this instance the symptoms of yellow fever are:

  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding in mouth and eyes
  • Vomit containing blood

The toxic phase is fatal in about 20% of cases. In severe yellow fever epidemics, the mortality rate may exceed 50%!

Yellow fever treatment

Treatment for yellow fever comes in the form of a vaccination. The yellow fever vaccination is safe, affordable and highly effective. A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine can provide sustained immunity and life long protection. The vaccine provides effective immunity within 30 days for 99% of the people vaccinated.

Mosquito-borne diseases prevention

The best way to avoid contracting a mosquito-borne disease is through preventing mosquitoes.

How to prevent mosquito borne diseases

There are 4 main ways in which you can prevent mosquito bites, and thus helping to prevent catching a mosquito disease.

Insect repellent

Using a strong insect repellent is a good way to prevent mosquito bites. Before going outside apply the insect repellent onto your body, paying close attention to the mosquito bite hot spots such as arms and legs. Mosquitoes are usually active during dusk and dawn, so ensuring you apply a strong, reliable, insect repellent before leaving your home will help prevent mosquito bites even more.

Cover up

Although the summer months are very warm, opting to forgo wearing short sleeved clothing and choosing items such as trousers and long sleeved tops can help protect yourself from mosquito bites. This is due to the long sleeved clothing covering up the areas on your body which mosquitoes tend to bite.

Mosquito nets

Unfortunately mosquitoes tend to bite and feed upon us during the night. Although keeping windows and doors shut is a good mosquito prevention method, sometimes the hot weather permits us from doing so. Fortunately there’s a great prevention method to help combat this. Using mosquito nets over your bed, or even stalling them in front of your windows will help prevent mosquito bites.

Remove standing water

Removing standing water from buckets and containers is a great way to prevent mosquitoes, and mosquito bites. Why? Well it removes potential mosquito breeding areas. Eliminating these sites from your property will make your home seem less attractive, thus reducing your contact with these biting insects, and the possibility of contracting a mosquito-borne disease.

Think you might have a mosquito problem? Get in contact with Rentokil today.

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16 November 2015