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Learn about mosquito-borne diseases and their symptoms, treatments and prevention techniques. 

 

What are mosquito-borne diseases?

When a mosquito feeds on blood, it also swallows any viruses or parasites living in the blood. These viruses and parasites can be transferred to the next person the mosquito bites through its saliva. Any disease that is spread in this way from mosquito to human (or animal) is known as a 'mosquito-borne disease'. 

While the mosquito may not be affected, these mosquito-borne diseases can cause immense suffering for humans. Nearly 700 million people contract mosquito-borne illnesses each year, causing more than one million deaths.

Common types of mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika.

 
a mother holds a baby with microcephaly, Brazil
Mosquito-borne diseases

Zika fever, also known as Zika virus disease or simply Zika, is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Zika virus. In many cases there are no symptoms, but it can present in a similar way to dengue fever. Symptoms might include fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache and a maculopapular rash. Women who are infected by Zika virus during pregnancy can bear children with serious health conditions, including microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which can cause life-long disabilities.

Common symptoms

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Headaches
  • Achy muscles and joints
mother looks after a child in hospital
 
Mosquito-borne diseases

Dengue fever

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection. This may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. Recovery generally takes two to seven days. Dengue fever can develop into dengue heamorrhagic fever, a more severe form of the disease, which includes symptoms such as bleeding under the skin and constant vomiting. In recent decades, the global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically, with around 40 per cent of the world's population now at risk. Every year, approximately 25,000 people around the world die from dengue fever.

Common symptoms

  • High fever
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
 
child in hospital with yellow fever, Indonesia
Mosquito-borne diseases

Yellow fever is a viral disease of typically short duration. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains (particularly in the back) and headaches. Symptoms tend to improve within five days, however approximately 30,000 people around the world die from yellow fever every year. Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The 'yellow' in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients. 

Common symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
patients waiting at a health clinic in Mexico
 
Mosquito-borne diseases

Chikungunya

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans via infected mosquitoes. Symptoms typically include fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and rash. In most cases, a patient's condition will improve within a week, however occasionally the joint pain may last for months or even years. Chikungunya shares some clinical signs with Zika and dengue, leading to potential misdiagnosis in areas where these diseases are prevalent.

Common symptoms

  • Sudden-onset fever
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Fatigue