The Most Dangerous World's Creature Can Return to California Soon

A small insect has the ability to spread life-threatening diseases to both humans and animals, making it one of the most dangerous creatures on Earth. That is a mosquito. Mosquitoes cause approximately 700,000 deaths annually, as reported by the World Health Organization. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like malaria, Zika, and West Nile virus. Although some of these illnesses are uncommon or not found in the United States, West Nile virus poses a significant danger to all states, including California. This article will discuss why mosquitoes are considered the most hazardous creature globally, how they spread West Nile virus, and ways Californians can safeguard themselves from this severe illness.

What makes mosquitoes the most dangerous creature on the planet?

Mosquitoes pose a significant threat as they can transmit numerous diseases to both humans and animals. A vector is an organism capable of spreading a pathogen, like a virus, bacteria, or parasite, from one host to another. When mosquitoes feed on the blood of an infected host and then bite another host, they can transmit the pathogen into their bloodstream.

Here are some of the diseases that can be transmitted by mosquitoes:

  • Malaria is a parasitic disease that impacts millions of individuals in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. It results in fever, chills, headache, and additional symptoms. Failure to promptly and effectively treat it can have serious consequences. Approximately 600,000 individuals die annually from malaria, with a majority being children in Africa.
  • Zika: A viral disease first identified in Brazil in 2015, which later spread to other regions. It results in mild symptoms like fever, rash, and joint pain. Yet, it can also lead to severe birth defects in babies born to mothers who were infected while pregnant. Zika can also lead to a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome in certain adults.
  • West Nile virus was initially identified in the United States in 1999 and has now reached all states in the country. It results in symptoms similar to the flu, like fever, headache, and body aches. However, in some cases, it can also cause severe neurological complications such as encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma, or death. Approximately 100 individuals in the United States die each year from West Nile virus.

How are mosquitoes able to spread West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is primarily spread by Culex mosquitoes, which are prevalent in California. These mosquitoes consume blood from birds carrying the virus and then transfer it to humans or other animals through bites. It’s important to note that not every mosquito carries the virus, and being bitten by an infected mosquito doesn’t guarantee you’ll get sick. Yet, the likelihood of infection rises in the summer and early fall due to the increased activity and abundance of mosquitoes.

The West Nile virus was initially identified in California in 2003 and has now been found in all 58 counties of the state, as per the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In California in 2020, there were a total of 402 human cases of West Nile virus, resulting in 17 deaths. Most cases were reported in the Central Valley and Southern California regions, known for their warm and dry climate.

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How can Californians safeguard against West Nile virus?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or specific treatment available for West Nile virus. Hence, the most effective method to avoid the disease is by preventing mosquito bites and getting rid of mosquito breeding spots. Here are the steps recommended by CDPH to lower the chances of West Nile virus infection:

  • Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 on your skin and clothes when outside, particularly in the early morning and evening when mosquitoes are most active.
  • It’s important to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when you’re outside, especially in places where mosquitoes are around.
    Set up or fix screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from entering the house.
  • Eliminate any stagnant water around your home in places like flower pots, buckets, tires, bird baths, or gutters, where mosquitoes can breed.
  • If you come across dead birds or tree squirrels, make sure to report them to the local health department or the CDPH. This could be a sign of West Nile virus in the area.
  • If you experience symptoms of West Nile virus like fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or rash, it’s important to seek medical help.

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