World Mosquito Day: Origin and Diseases

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Mosquitoes are among the many creatures which appeared on Earth much before the first human set forth to bind nature to his/her will. In fact, the entire Jurassic World series would not have been possible without that one prehistoric mosquito which was trapped in a piece of amber. Science fiction aside, mosquitoes, are blood-sucking parasites, quite a lot like Count Dracula, had he been an insect. In this post here, we will not be discussing the mythical beginnings of mosquitoes as a species, we will, however, be focusing on the types of diseases mosquitoes cause, their points of origin, subspecies division and also answer the question of why someone thought about enlisting and celebrating something like the world mosquito day:

World Mosquito Day: Origin and Diseases

Why and When Is The World Mosquito Day Celebrated?

You would think that the World Mosquito Day was a recent phenomenon, but surprisingly, the world has been celebrating this day for over 120 years. The fact that the female Anopheles mosquito carries the malaria virus with her and is responsible for the spread of Malaria, was discovered by Sir Ronald Ross on  August 20, 1897. This discovery was path-breaking as far as prevention and treatment of malaria were concerned. Sir Ross received a Nobel Prize for his discovery, and while the British claim that the award belongs to them, to this date the records reflect that the award is registered under India’s name. This trivial information apart, August 20 is celebrated as World Mosquito Day because Sir Ronald Ross himself requested his peers to observe and celebrate this day as World Mosquito Day. Since, as early as the 1930’s, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine celebrate this day every year with exhibitions and parties.

Diseases Caused by Mosquitoes and their Prevention

In the years that have followed, Sir Ronald Ross’ discovery of how the female Anopheles mosquito spreads malaria, several other mosquito-borne diseases have come to the fore, the most common of these diseases are:

Dengue:

Dengue fever is rapidly becoming a common tropical disease. India is already reporting a year-round occurrence of dengue cases. The dengue-causing virus is carried by females of the Aedes Aegypti species of mosquitoes. A female mosquito is able to transmit the virus, within a week of drinking blood from an infected person. We have discussed the symptoms and effects of dengue previously. It is important to remember that while dengue has now become a manageable disease, it can only be managed with timely diagnosis and intervention. Globally, the disease is known to claim over a hundred thousand lives each year.

Chikungunya:

Chikungunya again is a perennial disease in India. It is spread by the females of the Aedes Aegypti and the Aedes Albopictus species of mosquitoes. It is again a viral infection, a female mosquito is able to spread the disease within 3-7 days of biting an infected person. The symptoms and effects of Chikungunya have been discussed in a previous post. It is important to remember that while Chikungunya has not killed an individual yet, it causes intense joint pain and to this date remains without a treatment or preventive vaccine.

Zika Virus:

Zika Virus was introduced in the Americas in the 1930’s by quite an accident. However, by 2016, the virus had spread through the entire American continent. The Zika virus causes very mild symptoms in individuals, we have discussed the same in a previous post. However, it has been discovered that if a pregnant woman suffers from the Zika virus infection, she may give birth to a baby with developmental defects. Pregnant women have been specially warned against travelling to Zika Virus prevalent countries, during their pregnancies.

West Nile Disease:

West Nile Disease is a curious disease, spread via the saliva of the females belonging to the Culex genus of mosquitoes, this disease is carried in the blood of infected birds. Mosquitoes feed on the infected birds and then spread the disease from there on. The virus multiplies in the human bloodstream and reaches the human brain, causing encephalitis. In extreme cases, the disease may cause convulsions, coma, and death. However, only 1 in almost 150 people suffers from the extreme symptoms of West Nile Disease. Other symptoms of the disease include stiff neck, high fever, inflammation of lymph nodes, and headaches. It should also be noted that this disease is likely to harm people over 60 years of age. There is no known treatment for this disease, however, it is widely believed by researchers that once a body has suffered from the Western Nile disease, it develops a natural immunity against the virus.

Yellow Fever:

Aedes Aegypti is known as the Yellow Fever Mosquito. The flavivirus which causes yellow fever is commonly found in primates and thus originated from South America and Africa. The incubation period for this biphasic disease is 3-6 days. During the first phase, an individual may display symptoms like nausea, headache, chills, and fever. The disease may then return with more serious symptoms like abdominal pain, nosebleeds, and blood vomiting, after a period of remission. There are no specific treatment plans for yellow fever. However, preventive vaccinations are available for individuals.

Japanese Encephalitis:

The Japanese Encephalitis Virus is carried forward by the Culex type of mosquito. The Japanese Encephalitis Virus is generally carried by pigs and other wild birds. Japanese encephalitis has very minor to no symptoms, apart from the inflammation of the brain on occasions. When the brain suffers from inflammation, a person can suffer from fever, headache, seizures, nausea, and confusion. There is no specific treatment plan for Japanese encephalitis, but there are several preventive vaccinations available.

Malaria:

Parasites, Plasmodium vivax or Plasmodium falciparum cause malaria. When a female Anopheles mosquito bites an infected person, these parasites are transferred to her system. The incubation period for these parasites in 10-18 days, post which, they are transferred to the human body with the saliva of the mosquito. When these parasites enter the human body, they travel to the liver and start multiplying there. As they multiply and grow, they start entering the bloodstream and destroying the red blood cells, when the parasites have grown enough to attack red blood cells, a patient starts displaying flu-like symptoms like sweating, fever, chills and so on. If left untreated, Malaria can damage the kidneys and cause death. It should be noted, there antimalarial medicines to help the body combat this disease.

Origin of Mosquitoes:

When Alexander marched out to conquer the world, he had not factored in the invisible enemies his army would face. There are many split accounts on why Alexander did not wage war against the Mauryas, some say the Mauryan army was too large for Alexander to conquer, while others believe his soldiers were on the verge of mutiny, as they were sick of the heat and pests that came with it, especially blood-sucking pests like large mosquitoes. Many of his soldiers had died of curious diseases, researchers since then have argued, that maybe his army suffered from malaria. When the western explorers started exploring the Amazonian and Congo rainforests, they were sick of mosquitoes and their sharp bites and some returned to succumb to unexplainable fevers. At some point, it was believed that mosquitoes were a more recent development, but recent dinosaur-era amber, show that mosquitoes are more than 200 million years old.

In fact, the Anopheles mosquitoes of the ancient era and now have almost similar features, stating that mosquitoes haven’t changed much since then. Scientists believe that mosquitoes originated from Africa and spread from there on, ancient mosquitoes were approximately thrice the size of mosquitoes today. Some cultures believe that mosquitoes are the curses sent by ancestors on their community, while others believe that mosquitoes are reincarnations of vindictive dead people.

Mosquitoes resemble flies and belong to the Culicidae family. Only the females of this species drink the blood of other mammals and vertebrates like snakes and at times fish. The female drinks blood, in order to procure the protein necessary for laying eggs. While a mosquito bite in itself does not make much of a difference apart from the development of a rash, what makes mosquito bites dangerous is that mosquitoes are excellent vectors of various life-threatening diseases like Dengue, Malaria, Yellow Fever and so on. But these are not the only diseases that mosquitoes carry, they can also inject bot fly eggs under the skin of the animals they feast on. Bot fly larvae then travel to the muscle and feed off the host. Most humans who have suffered from bot fly infestation report that they can feel the movement of the larvae.

Types of Mosquito:

The Culicidae family is divided into two subfamilies, namely: i) Anophelinae, and ii) Culicinae. These subfamilies are further subdivided into 40 genera like Culex, Aedes, Anopheles, Lutzia and so on. There are over 3500 types of mosquitoes found all over the world. Of these, not all types eat blood and not all blood eating types are vectors. Most mosquito species are active during cooler temperatures like early morning or evening. However, there are some types which are active during the daytime. It is also interesting to note, that some types of mosquitoes prey on the larvae of other mosquitoes. These mosquito eaters are often used to control and reduce the threat of blood-eating mosquitoes.

Interesting Facts about Mosquito:

Like all flies, mosquitoes live through four stages which are: i) Egg, ii) Larva, iii) Pupa, and iv) Adult. Most female mosquitoes lay eggs on water but the density of water required is decided by the type of mosquito in question. The mosquito egg hatches between 24-48 hours of being laid, the larvae require water to survive and within 7-10 days develop into pupae. Once the mosquito is developed enough, it breaks out of the pupa and dries its wings before a flight. The female mosquito starts hunting for a blood carrying organism to feed on. The life cycle of a male mosquito is only 10 days, while the female mosquitoes live for 42-56 days, and females are also able to lay over 100 eggs in one go.

The females require blood to synthesise some kinds of proteins, which enable her to create and lay more eggs. Generally, a female is ready to lay eggs within 24-48 hours of feeding blood. When a female mosquito bites a host, her body cleanses the blood she sucks, which is why she urinates on the host before flying away. Mosquitoes can’t fly for more than 300 feet at once.

How to Control Mosquitoes:

If you have lived long enough in India, the clearest instruction given to all citizens is to keep their surroundings dry. Since mosquito larva requires water to survive, the most obvious step is to not let any water collect around you, especially uncovered water collection sources. Here are some steps of controlling the mosquito population around you:

  1. The oldest suggestion in the book, pour coconut oil or other oil on open drains to avoid mosquito breeding or buy Naturalis Lemon Eucalyptus Oil 
  2. Use nets and covers.
  3. Covering up well during mosquito season.
  4. Mosquito killing racquets
  5. Use mosquito repellents. 

Buy Mosquito Repellent Vaporizers.

So, that’s that, we have told you briefly, all there is to know about mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. If you wish to know exactly how mosquitoes can be celebrated, check out the annual Great Texas Mosquito Festival.

News:

An App to Repel Mosquitoes?

– 09th Sep 2018

Apple Inc. is selling a free of cost app which repels mosquitoes, the app comes with 3 settings and a disclaimer that there are more than 3500 species of mosquitoes and the app makers don’t guarantee repelling all types of mosquitoes. The app is said to generate sound waves which are lower than the human hearing range but female mosquitoes will be able to hear wing beating or buzzing of other predator insects like dragonflies. In 2012, a radio station in Brazil asked its listeners to sit close to their radios during 6:00-8:00 p.m. every evening for the next three weeks. The station claimed that apart from music, the radio was also releasing sound waves which would keep mosquitoes away. The radio encouraged people to go out and enjoy their evenings.

Today, most e-commerce sites boast of products or electric devices which release very low sound waves to keep pests away from your homes. The mobile phone app is one such example, other examples could be 11 hours long YouTube music videos to repel pests especially mosquitoes. The biggest benefit of these apps and devices is that they are eco-friendly, you don’t have to bear the damage caused by pesticides. However, further research conducted by several organisations has led to the conclusion that these devices and apps are ineffective.

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