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Mosquitoes Can Cause Six Infectious Diseases

Mosquitoes transmit viruses such as malaria.



The majority of people immediately link malaria to mosquitoes. However, a variety of other diseases can also be spread by these tiny flying insects.

Viruses that are arthropod-borne or arboviruses are those that are spread by insects like mosquitoes. These viruses, like malaria, are spread to vertebrate hosts by the bite of female mosquitoes who are feeding on blood to help their eggs develop. The majority of these arboviruses’ vertebrate hosts are not people. They consist of avian species, primates, and farm animals. But some arboviruses can spread to humans and cause terrible harm.

The chikungunya, dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, and Zika viruses are five of the most significant arboviruses infecting populations in Africa. Half of the world’s population, according to estimates, could contract an arbovirus.

Not all diseases spread by mosquitoes can kill people, but some of them may. This demonstrates that both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical precautions must be taken to avoid getting bitten by a mosquito and contracting an infection.


The word “chikungunya” means “to become deformed” in the Kimakonde language, which is spoken in Tanzania and Mozambique. Chikungunya virus symptoms include headaches, a rash, lethargy, fever, and soreness in the muscles and joints. Usually, these symptoms disappear after a week. Sometimes an infection can cause a high temperature and excruciating joint pain that can linger for months or years and cause a distorted, slumped appearance. Unfortunately, there are no vaccines or antiviral medications to treat chikungunya virus. Chikungunya-related deaths are uncommon and typically linked to other underlying medical conditions.

The chikungunya virus was initially discovered in Tanzania in 1952 after an outbreak. Mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species spread it. Worldwide incidences of the chikungunya virus have been reported from more than 100 nations. Anywhere that these mosquito species are found near residences and populated areas, there is a very high danger of outbreaks.

Female Aedes mosquitoes often feed shortly after dawn and soon before dusk. They produce eggs that are resistant to drying out. Vector control is therefore quite difficult. The use of pesticides against adult mosquitoes, fewer water containers for breeding, and personal protection against mosquito bites are the main components of current control efforts.


The dengue virus is one of the top 10 worldwide health concerns, according to the World Health Organization. One of the mosquito-borne diseases that spreads the fastest is this one. The risk of infection affects at least 50% of the world’s population.

Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes disseminate the dengue virus, just like they do the chikungunya virus. Since both viruses have similar control measures and non-specific symptoms such headaches, rashes, fevers, and aches in the muscles and joints, they are frequently misdiagnosed.

The majority of dengue cases in people are asymptomatic or only exhibit minor symptoms that last two to seven days. In some people, the dengue virus progresses to a serious illness with symptoms like chronic vomiting, bleeding gums or a runny nose, and an enlarged liver. As these problems may be fatal, this needs to be handled as a medical emergency. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a fast diagnostic test can be used to identify the dengue virus.

However, there is no available treatment. Although a vaccination has been created and is approved for use in a few nations, it is currently not generally accessible in Africa.


In the 1950s, the Zika virus was discovered in humans. However, the Zika virus pandemic of 2015 did not cause it to become a pathogen of significant public concern until 2016. The virus is typically not fatal to humans and is spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The majority of Zika virus victims do not exhibit any symptoms. A few people get generalized symptoms such fever, rash, headaches, soreness in the muscles and joints, and conjunctivitis. Two to seven days are possible for them.

Pregnant women who contract the Zika virus are more likely to experience stillbirth, abortion, neurological problems, or give birth to children who have birth defects including microcephaly. Zika virus can be identified through PCR testing, but there is no cure.

Yeast infection

The mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus also transmit yellow fever, so named because the virus results in jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin due to impaired liver function).

Fever, headaches, chills, back pain, exhaustion, jaundice, vomiting, and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes, or stomach are among the symptoms of mild cases. These typically disappear within five days. Of the few people who experience severe symptoms, 50% will pass away within 10 days of contracting the infection. PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays can be used to diagnose yellow fever (ELISA). Yellow fever has no known cure, although there is a very good vaccination that is readily accessible. Yellow fever is endemic in certain locations, therefore everyone living there or visiting should get the vaccine. One dosage provides lifetime immunity.

North Nile

In the West Nile region of Uganda, the West Nile virus was initially discovered in a female patient. Mosquitoes from the genus Culex are responsible for its transmission. Wild birds serve as the natural hosts for vertebrates. However, the virus can spread from an infected mosquito bite to a variety of species, including people. Approximately 80% of West Nile virus carriers will not experience any symptoms. The mild, non-specific symptoms that those who do experience have include headaches, fever, fatigue, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and, on rare occasions, a rash. However, only a tiny percentage of symptomatic people progress to serious illness. This has a connection to neurological damage and, in severe situations, can be fatal.

The only available treatment for neurological damage caused by West Nile virus infection is supportive care, which can be determined by PCR or ELISA. According to some theories, those over 50 or who have impaired immune systems are more vulnerable to serious infections. To restrict the spread of the Culex vectors, an integrated strategy combining water management with chemical and biological interventions is required.

At the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Shüné Oliver is a medical scientist and Jaishree Raman is the laboratory’s head of antimalarial resistance monitoring and malaria operational research.

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