How Do Mosquitoes Spread Viruses?

07/08/2016


Mosquitoes   

You might think that mosquitoes spread viruses that are stuck to the needle it injects into your skin, but thankfully, it doesn't work exactly like that. Viruses don't last long outside of the body. It is highly unlikely that you would get any illness from the mouthparts of a mosquito, even if the person standing next to you has a deadly virus--and the mosquito that is biting you, just bit them. You are more likely to catch the virus directly, through contact or saliva sprayed in the air through a cough or a sneeze from the infected person. Saliva plays a part in the spread of infectious diseases. And, this is also true for mosquitoes as well.

Incubation

Let's use malaria as an example. When malaria enters the body of a mosquito it is not yet a human-spread infectious disease. The single-celled parasite responsible for malaria multiplies in the stomach of a mosquito and matures into an infectious form. This infection works its way into the salivary glands of the mosquito and is able to be spread through the bite of that mosquito. It works similarly for other dangerous mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, Zika, and more. Basically, the mosquito catches the virus, but the virus doesn't kill them. Thus, they become a carrier.

Vectors

Since mosquitoes are able to contract deadly viruses and turn them into infectious diseases, they are considered vectors. While the word seems to have a different meaning in physics than it does in biology, it does not. Vector doesn't simply mean that an organism is capable of contracting and spreading a disease; it means that the organism can be used to track the direction and magnitude of an outbreak (like a vector). If there are no mosquitoes in a certain area that can spread a certain virus, scientists can predict what direction the outbreak can move and how quickly it can spread.

How vectors are stopped

It is extremely difficult to screen people coming into the country with infectious diseases and an outbreak can happen anywhere at any time. That is why the first line of defense the U.S. government uses is mosquito abatement. When mosquito populations are kept low, the risk of a widespread viral outbreak is diminished. But this is an incomplete solution without the help of home and business owners. If we are to keep our communities safe, we all must consider taking part, in this vital way. For more information, reach out to us by phone, email, or right here on our website.






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