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Being located in a tropical region, Singapore is no stranger to mosquito-related diseases such as Dengue and the recent Zika incidents. There has been more interest in the latter with the epidemic that started in the America region. Here is a rundown of mosquito-borne diseases.
Dengue is one of the most common diseases transferred by Mosquitoes, and also one of the deadliest. Dengue is caused by the dengue virus which has five different types, and carried by the Aedes aegypti species.
According to studies, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito prefers to rest indoors and are daylight feeders feed on humans during daylight hours, with its peak biting periods mostly in the morning and before dark in the evening.
The dengue virus is transmitted from person to person when the Aedes Aegypti sucks a dengue-infected person, which results in the mosquito being infected with the dengue virus. After about one week, the mosquito can transmit the virus while biting a healthy person, thus infecting them with the dengue virus as well.
When one is infected by a strain of dengue virus, it is advisable to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and see a doctor for close monitoring. Symptoms of Dengue fever include headaches, high fever, vomiting, muscle pains, and skin rash.
Since there is no specific medicine to treat dengue infection, treatment relies heavily on a person’s immune system. Recovery can take as little as two days to as long as two weeks, depending on the severity. It is critical to learn how to control the adult mosquito population to avoid the risks of being bitten by a female mosquito.
The Zika virus is another disease spread by the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos. The virus is said to have been first isolated in the Zika Forest Uganda, from which it was named.
The first instances of this disease were concentrated in the African and Asian region; but in recent decades, it has spread to the Americas, particularly with the 2015 and 2016 epidemic.
Zika and Dengue have similar symptoms: Fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, etc. However, Dengue can lead to Dengue haemorrhagic Fever, where symptoms may progress to massive bleeding, shock, and death. Zika, on the other hand, may cause Microcephaly in infants – a birth defect wherein a baby’s head is smaller than expected - and other neurological defects. A blood test is needed to identify if a person has Zika or Dengue.
Like Dengue, there is no treatment for Zika. So the best way prevent Zika is to protect yourself from mosquitos by reducing the level of both adult mosquito population and keeping your house clear of mosquito breeding areas.
The Chikungunya virus was first discovered during an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952, where its name was derived from the Makonde word meaning "that which bends up" due to the stooped posture developed from the arthritic symptoms of the disease.
The chikungunya virus is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The disease mostly occurs in Asia, Africa, and India. Symptoms usually start with having an abrupt onset of fever, often followed by severe joint pain, skin rash, headache, or nausea.
Currently, there is no specific antiviral drug treatment or vaccine for chikungunya, and travellers should take extra precaution when traveling to these malaria-risk countries by protecting yourself from being bitten by using mosquito repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and keep cool and dry from perspiration. Learn reasons why some people have a higher chance of getting bitten by mosquitoes.
Like Dengue, Malaria is also a life-threatening disease transmitted mosquitos. Malaria is caused by a Plasmodium parasite which is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. Plasmodium parasites multiply in the person’s liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells.
The Anopheles mosquito usually bites at night, and rests indoor and outdoor depending on the species; they also prefer clean and unpolluted water to breed in. Anopheles mosquitos prefer darker areas, too.
If you’re bitten by an Anopheles mosquito with Malaria, symptoms develop within ten days to a month after the infection. Symptoms include fever, joint and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and jaundice in severe cases. Immediate medical attention is advised for those who contracts Malaria. They tend to live in sea water or swamps, so you should consider taking extra care when nearing these locations.
Any of these diseases can be potentially life-threatening if not addressed at the early stages. As with many things, prevention is better than cure, so taking preventive measures is important to avoid facing these risks. It is also recommended that homes and work places to have regular inspection of potential breeding sites and adopting adequate indoor and outdoor mosquito control treatments by a professional.