The World’s Deadliest Creature Safety Talk
What creature do you think is responsible for the most deaths every single year? Water buffalos, lions, tigers, alligators, or sharks may come to mind, but the actual culprit is much smaller than all of these top predators. The answer is mosquitos. According to Bill Gate’s website gatenotes.com, mosquitos are responsible for over 725,000 deaths a year. That number of deaths is more than the deaths caused by humans, dogs, snakes, roundworms, tapeworms, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, lions, wolves, and sharks combined on an annual basis.
What Makes Mosquitos Deadly
Obviously, mosquitos do not kill using raw power, sharp teeth, or long claws. Instead, they kill by passing diseases onto their victims. There are over 2,500 types of mosquitos and there are large numbers of mosquitos in every single part of the world except for Antarctica. These mosquitos are able to easily pass on their diseases to other carriers, such as humans, and sometimes the carriers themselves can pass the disease onto others.
Diseases Carried by Mosquitos
The deadliest disease carried by mosquitos is malaria. Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. Malaria is responsible for over 400,000 deaths per year and for incapacitating individuals for days at a time hundreds of millions of times per year, according to the World Health Organization. Most of the malaria cases are found in Africa. However, there is also an average of 1,500 cases of malaria diagnosed in the United States each year according to the CDC, but many of these cases are travelers returning from areas where malaria is more prevalent.
There are other viruses carried by these insects that are more common in the United States. Two of the more commonly discussed diseases are the West Nile Virus and the Zika Virus.
There have been 44,000 cases of West Nile Virus reported since 1999. West Nile Virus can cause flu-like symptoms, but oftentimes only causes severe illness in the elderly. The Zika Virus is rare to get in the United States, the CDC reports only 220 locally acquired cases in total (as of 02/2017). There are many more cases reported in the U.S. due to travelers returning on trips. These individuals can pass the virus through sex as well as other mosquitos if they are bit shortly after returning with the virus. Zika is more of a concern for pregnant women, who could pass the virus on to their unborn child causing birth defects.
Safeguards to Prevent Mosquito Diseases
- Use proper insect repellant to keep mosquitos away from you.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to prevent easy access to your skin.
- Spend more time indoors with air conditioning, doors, and window screens when mosquitos are prevalent.
- Remove standing water from around your home or work areas.
While mosquitos and the diseases that they carry are not as big of a concern in the U.S. as they are in Africa, they still should be taken seriously. There are diseases that these insects carry that can lead to death in the U.S. Preventing bites in countries where there are other diseases can equate to less spread of the diseases to new parts of the world.