Mosquitoes can transmit disease through their bites, including West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, Chikungunya, Dengue, Zika and malaria. The most effective way to avoid getting sick from germs spread by mosquitoes is to prevent mosquito bites.
West Nile Virus (WNV) Disease is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. and is spread primarily by Culex mosquitoes, which are common in Suffolk County. Culex mosquitoes breed in water-filled containers, such as flower pots, pet bowls, clogged gutters, etc. Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by regularly emptying these sources of standing water.
Most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. Mild cases of WNV infection (West Nile fever) may include a slight fever and head and body aches. Severe infections (West Nile encephalitis) may also include muscle weakness and may progress to encephalitis or meningitis.
WNV disease symptoms usually occur three to 14 days after exposure. Individuals who are most at risk for severe infection include those over 50 years of age and those with chronic illness or compromised immune systems. Healthy children and adults are at low risk for serious illness from West Nile virus. Horses are susceptible to WNV infection and should be vaccinated.
CDC West Nile Virus Information
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare mosquito-borne illness in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. EEE virus is typically spread by a variety of mosquitoes from wooded, swampy regions. In Suffolk County, this virus has been found sporadically in mosquitoes but there has never been a human infection.
Most persons infected with EEE have no apparent illness. Severe cases (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33 percent mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. Horses are susceptible to EEEV infection and should be vaccinated.
CDC Eastern Equine Encephalitis Information
Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika Viruses are spread primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes will bite anytime during the day or night. The vast majority of these infections are acquired while traveling to other countries. Outbreaks have occurred in other regions of the world such as parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Precautions should be taken when traveling to places where these viruses are circulating. Visit the CDC’s website for current information on at risk travel destinations.
In addition to the bite of an infected mosquito, Zika virus can also be spread through sexual contact or blood transfusions. It can also be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
CDC Chikungunya Virus Information
CDC Dengue Virus Information
CDC Zika Virus Information
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite (Plasmodium). People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
CDC Malaria Information
Diagnosis and Treatment
Be sure to seek medical attention if you become ill after a mosquito bite. Generally, an evaluation of symptoms and blood tests will be used in making a diagnosis. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. Antimalarial medications may be used to treat malaria. Prompt diagnosis and treatment improves outcome. Your medical provider will choose the care that is best for you.