As the Monsoon season quickly approaches, it brings with it many surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. The month of Ramadan, summer vacations and the time of relaxation are just some of those. However, with the heavy showers that have been prevalent all over the Northern half of Pakistan, this season brings with itself one of the deadliest creatures: the Mosquito. During the months of summer and a part of August, dampness is expected and so, are mosquitoes which thrive in such conditions.
To most, the mosquito is an annoying little insect whose favorite pastime includes buzzing in our ears and stinging us occasionally, but harmlessly. While these bites might sound, and feel, like irritating yet harmless occurrences, all it takes is one sting from the wrong mosquito to ensure a long stop at the hospital. According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites take the lives of several hundreds of thousands, even around a million or more, all around the world.
So, in order to properly address this issue, we have listed six deadly diseases caused by mosquitoes.
1. The Zika Fever:
This virus that causes the Zika fever has its origins in Africa, where it was first discovered in mid 20th Century. Since then, it has landed in South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and, very unfortunately, Southeast Asia.
The trickiest part of this virus is how the symptoms seemingly do not manifest themselves in more serious ways than pinkeye, pain in the joints or muscle, a fever or a rash and do not prevail for more than a week most of the time. This is one reason why most people infected with Zika do not even realize they are infected.
The more grave issues caused by the Zika Virus are infections during pregnancy that lead to
- Joint or muscle pain
- Microcephaly, a potentially fatal congenital brain condition that is also a birth defect, and
- Guillain-Barre syndrome.
As per current reports, the spread of ZIKV in Pakistan has been underestimated by clinicians, due to scarcity of the applicable methods to diagnose Zika infections on a scale that is large enough. Nevertheless, the foothold that Zika has acquired in Asian countries around Pakistan is evidence of the fact that this can become, if it is not at this moment, a grave problem for Pakistan (Wahid, Ali, Rafique & Idrees, 2018).
Caused by the West Nile virus, West Nile Encephalitis is another disease transmitted by mosquitoes that is prevalent all over the word including North and Central America, Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East, parts of Asia, and Pakistan as well.
In fact, there was an epidemic in Pakistan that was reported around the years 2015 and 2016 involving the West Nile Virus carried and spread by mosquitoes.
This illness has a higher incidence rate in older people and those possessing a weak immune system. Among all the people who become infected, only two out of 10 develop any symptoms. They include
- Joint pain,
- Body aches
Most of the symptoms are mild and not very deadly even though the tiredness could prevail for many weeks. Older people, those who are above the age of 50, are at a higher risk of developing the more severe symptoms. For every 150 people infected with this virus, only one would go on to develop severe infections. Nevertheless, the rate of susceptibility for more serious symptoms and neuroinvasive disease increases when the age of the individual, as has been stated before, is upward of 50 years.
Cases and outbreaks of the chikungunya virus had, before 2013, been only reported in African, European and Asian countries, including Pakistan.
Transmission of the virus occurs when an infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito bites; the same mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of Dengue and Zika Viruses. These mosquitoes sting mostly during the day and night, not as much in the time in between and usually dwell in cities and their outskirts.
The commonalities of chikungunya with Dengue and Zika extend not just to transmission but to symptoms as well.
- Muscle and joint pain,
- Chikungunya disease can prove fatal to elders
While Chikungunya caused deaths are not very common, evidence exists that they do occur, especially among those who suffer from severe infections or other illness. Even though mortality in Chikungunya has not gone through a widespread process of examination, one study that was conducted identified a fatality rate of 9.5% (Gogia, B & Kakar, 2017).
4. Yellow Fever:
If not treated properly, the yellow fever is a grave illness that could end up killing the one infected with it. Infected Aedes mosquitos carry this virus and transmit it to any living they can sting. Some of the conditions caused by untreated Yellow fever include a very high fever, hemorrhage, damage to the kidneys and liver and jaundice as well.
While yellow fever is not that prevalent within the context of Pakistan, there are certain reports that the possibility of its transmission is not entirely implausible.
The manifestation of the symptoms occurs in three stages. The first one involves much of the symptoms listed for the previous diseases, namely
- Joint pain
The second stage symptoms are more severe and include
- Loss of appetite
While the majority of those infected recover before the third stage, some do not. Those who do not recover by that time usually develop serious symptoms like
- Lower urine production because of damage to the kidneys
It was further established by research that the risk of yellow fever is higher in the residents of third world, or economically challenged countries.
Malaria is a very well-known condition that infected, according to WHO estimates, 219 million people all over the world in 2017, out of which it claimed the lives of 435 000. The vast majority, more than 90%, of the infected population was living in Africa.
The Plasmodium parasites, the ones that cause Malaria, are spread across populations through the “malaria vectors”, a name given to the infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
As with the yellow fever, malaria symptoms develop over more than just one stage. The first stage is ‘uncomplicated malaria’. The symptoms of this include
- Being cold
Then comes the stage of ‘severe malaria’ which involves signs of discord in the functionality of bodily organs. The symptoms encompass
- Symptoms of anemia
- Yellow skin
- Persistent fever
- Diminished consciousness
The truly startling fact is that, according to DMC findings, 98% of the Pakistani population is in some risk of acquiring the disease. 29% of the Pakistani Population is in the high risk zone. Such high numbers give an extra reason to remain safe using the proper prevention methods.
6. Dengue Fever:
Dengue fever, perhaps the most famous mosquito-borne disease in Pakistan, other than malaria, is spread through an Aedes mosquito’s dengue virus (any of the four dengue viruses) infected bite. The dengue viruses share common origins with the West Nile and yellow fever viruses.
Estimates of the dengue infections reach up to 390 million every year all over the world. 90 million of them get ill.
It is not until four to six days following the infection that the symptoms present themselves and usually continue for ten days. These include
- Severe fever that occurs suddenly
- Painful Headaches
- Joint and muscle ache
- Bleeding nose or gum
A more extreme form, dengue hemorrhagic fever, could also be observed in some people. This is characterized by leaking of small blood vessels which leads to fluid accumulation in lungs and belly. Medical attention is of utmost necessity in these cases.
As could be seen from the list of diseases above, mosquitoes are dangerous creatures who very well could land you a trip to your doctor or even to the comfortable bed in your nearest hospital!
Even though the rainy season is one of the most awaited seasons of Pakistan, it does end up building the population of bloodthirsty little creatures, hovering out there to buzz and bite you. Do not let their size fool you, for sometimes the smallest things leave the biggest impressions. So slap on some mosquito repellent, do not let stagnant water be stagnant any longer, and close your doors once it gets dark or install netted doors if you do not want to avoid the cool, moist breeze; and most of all, remain safe!