We all know that mosquitoes are annoying pests. They pester us in our backyards. They pester us when we go for walks in nature. They pester us when we try to enjoy a little camping. But mosquitoes are more than just annoying pests. They can carry dangerous viruses.
In Washington State, there are over 40 different mosquito species, all of which are capable of spreading human pathogens. We have seen outbreaks of Western equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis, serious flu-like illnesses that come with headaches and neurological symptoms. But there is now a growing threat of West Nile virus in the state and this has health agencies concerned. West Nile is a potent virus that can be fatal. While malaria is the leading killer in the rest of the world, West Nile is the most dangerous mosquito-spread virus in America.
Why is West Nile virus so dangerous? One of the biggest reasons is that it is endemic. While many mosquito diseases are brought into the United States by travelers, this one has found a reservoir in our animal populations. So, every year, mosquitoes get it again and begin to transmit it again. This is not the case with malaria. There is no reservoir for malaria here. We currently only see outbreaks of this virus. This is due to the National Malaria Eradication Program conducted in the 1940s. The program was so successful, malaria was entirely wiped out here and continues to be unable to regain a footing. U.S. health agencies conduct ongoing surveillance for the disease but only outbreaks have been seen.
Outbreaks of many mosquito-borne diseases happen every year. We see Dengue fever, yellow fever, Chikungunya, and others spread out and die out. The reason they die out is the implementation of widespread mosquito abatement performed by government agencies, businesses, and personal property owners. Without this ongoing emphasis on mosquito control, the mosquitoes in the U.S. would have free reign to spread many diseases that are known to be deadly in other countries. Mosquitoes are linked to so many deadly diseases that it was named the most dangerous animal in the world. We should never lose sight of that.
Recent outbreaks of Zika virus have been a sobering reminder that mosquito-borne diseases are very real in the rest of the world and they can come here. This virus, which ravages South America, has the potential to cause microcephaly in unborn children and lead to birth defects. These birth defects can have a lifelong impact on a family. Fortunately, through an intense effort on the part of federal, state, and local governments, Zika was monitored and controlled before it could find a reservoir.
While most of the scary diseases spread by mosquitoes are brought into our country by travelers, we have a long list of endemic diseases. The most noteworthy is encephalitis. While encephalitis simply means an inflammation of the brain, there are several diseases that put encephalitis in their names, such as Western equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis, both of which are a threat in Washington. These diseases have many symptoms that are flu-like and are often mistaken for the flu. The noteworthy difference is the severe headache that is associated with encephalitis. And encephalitis can also impact dogs and cats. In extreme cases, it can lead to an inflammation of the spinal cord or inflammation of the meniges (meningitis).
Dogs and cats are at risk for heartworm, which is spread by mosquitoes. For dogs, it can be very serious. These worms can grow to as long as a foot in length and there can be hundreds inside a dog. Cats are an atypical host for these parasites and only immature worms are found. But immature worms can still create respiratory distress for your cat. Heartworms are mostly innocuous for humans.
We've had much success fending off the harmful impact of mosquitoes in the U.S. through careful monitoring, mosquito abatement, good sanitation, and a network of hospitals and veterinary clinics, but mosquitoes can still make us miserable in our backyards. Get less miserable in your backyard with mosquito control service from ProSite Pest Control. With seasonal mosquito treatments, you can make your backyard a whole lot nicer (and safer) place to be. Reach out to us today to learn more or to request service.
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