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Learn About Diseases Caused by Mosquito Bites

Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2017
From a mild flu-like illness, to a deadly high fever, to a baby born with severe birth defects—a range of different diseases with different risks are carried in mosquitoes. Mosquito bites can be more than an itchy nuisance.

From a mild flu-like illness, to a deadly high fever, to a baby born with severe birth defects—a range of different diseases with different risks are carried in mosquitoes. Mosquito bites can be more than an itchy nuisance.

Learn about some of the diseases mosquitoes can carry, even here in the District, and how you can prevent bites. While these diseases may seem exotic, in recent years they have been reported in D.C. and surrounding areas, and with the persistent flow of travelers and changes in climate and ecosystems there are enough reasons to stay vigilant.

  • West Nile Virus: Most people infected do not have symptoms. The one in five that do get sick, usually experience a mild fever and other symptoms such as headache, gastrointestinal illness, joint pain or rash; usually all symptoms resolve in a week, though fatigue and weakness may last for a few weeks. Rarely (1 percent of those infected), West Nile Virus can cause swelling of the brain or surrounding tissue which causes severe illness.
  • Chikungunya: Causes a fever and body aches within 3 to 7 days of infection in most people. Infants, seniors, and people with other medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure may experience more serious illness.
  • Dengue Fever: Symptoms include a high fever and at least two of these symptoms: headache, eye pain, joint pain, muscle or joint pain, low white blood cell count, mild bleeding (through nose or mouth or easily bruising). Dengue can cause severe illness, and people with serious issues should go to the Emergency Room.  
  • Zika virus: Often does not cause any symptoms, but can cause a fever or mild flu-like symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can lead to very serious birth defects. Women who are pregnant, their partners, and couples who are trying to become pregnant should take steps to prevent mosquito bites and should not travel to areas where Zika is actively spreading.

There are no vaccines to prevent any of these diseases, but you can protect yourself by preventing mosquito bites. Wear EPA-registered repellents when you are outside, and apply them on kids too. Keep your windows and doors screened and sealed at home and remove any stagnant standing water around your yard, like water that collects in trash barrels or sandboxes.