Can Mosquitoes Kill Us?

These tiny long-legged insects are more deadly than you think.

What is the most dangerous animal for humans? It is not the man or sharks, but mosquitoes! According to statistics compiled by the blog of Bill Gates, mosquitoes result in more deaths on a daily basis than sharks have over a period of 100 years.

If data is to be believed, over 200 million people fall prey to malaria every year. This alone shows the fatality of mosquitoes.  

Mosquitoes, the females, in this case, are actually winged hypodermic needles. Their length is just over five millimeters. They have six legs and are the most effective disease vectors of the entire animal kingdom.

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It is thanks to their sense of smell that they spot us, attracted by lactic acid and our perspiration. They also smell the carbon dioxide that we exhale and reach our face with every exhalation of breath.

The more we know and the more we hunt by chasing them, the more interesting we become.

The problem is obviously what they spread like Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and malaria. We have to keep in mind that the vast majority of mosquito-borne diseases and the resulting deaths are malaria-related, as shared by the same blog of Bill Gates.

Malaria is a parasitic infection spread by the bite of some species of Anopheles mosquitoes. It has affected humans for over 50,000 years.

It causes tremors, fevers, nausea, and can even result in organ failure. This disease is responsible for more than half of the deaths caused by mosquitoes in 91 countries and mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

There is no vaccine against malaria. However, a pilot program was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 in three countries that involved utilizing RTS,S/AS01, the world’s first malaria vaccine that has been shown to provide partial protection in young children.

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The prevention of malaria has been effective and has resulted, according to the WHO, in a 62% decrease in deaths related to this disease between 2000 and 2015.

All in all, 6.8 million lives were saved.

Dengue fever is also a mosquito-borne disease that has become very worrying. It has become one of the leading causes of hospitalization and child deaths in some Asian and Latin American countries.

Therefore, it cannot be argued that the mosquito is a tiny insect with its long, thin legs that perches on our skin to get blood. In the best case, it leaves us with an inflammation accompanied by itching.

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At worst, it transmits diseases that can become deadly. We know that they are everywhere and, although we cannot see them often, that sound they produce with their transparent wings, similar to that of a trumpet, can drive us sufficiently mad.

To know this little enemy well, here are six things that you probably did not know about the mosquitoes.

1. A whole regiment

Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes
Source: NIAID/Flickr

In the world, there are more than 2,500 species of mosquitoes that, in the breeding seasons, outnumber even the termites and ants as well as any other members of the planet's fauna. The concentration of these insects in the breeding season, in some cases, can change population patterns.

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In many areas with onslaughts of malaria, the disease causes people to go inland, away from the coast, where the climate is most hostile for mosquitoes.

2. More dangerous than a man

Diseases caused by mosquitoes cause more deaths each year than conflicts and violence created by man. The mosquito represents a threat to half the population of the planet. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, about 725,000 people die from diseases transmitted by these insects.

And, according to the Bill Gates Foundation, man is responsible for 475,000 deaths per year. But it's not just about deaths!

Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, or Zika can temporarily incapacitate hundreds of millions of people.

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3. Not all species, neither sexes

Only female mosquitoes bite. The blood serves to feed the eggs that later become larvae in standing water. Although more than 2,500 species of mosquitoes are known in the world, most of them do not bother humans at all.

They live on plants and the nectar of fruit. It is only the females of 6% of the species such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus that suck human and animal blood for the development of their eggs.

4. It is not one needle, it's six

Mosquito Tasmania crop
Source: JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons

To suck the blood, mosquitoes use six needles. At first glance, it seems simple.

The mosquito introduces its proboscis, that elongated and tubular appendage on the head of the mosquito on our skin. But appearances deceive!

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What it keeps inside that trunk is not one, but six needles. Two of them have small teeth to penetrate the skin; two others serve as tweezers to keep the skin separated, and a needle to detect our veins and suck our blood.

And the sixth is to leave the toxins in the body, which is what causes inflammation and itching.

5. Blood enters and water comes out

Female mosquitoes remove excess water from the blood. As the female mosquito sucks the blood, it removes excess blood from behind.

It is as if she were squeezing it to keep the most nutrients for her eggs. According to National Geographic magazine, on average, these insects can spend about four minutes sucking on our blood.

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They suck so hard that the blood vessels start to collapse. Some of the vessels rupture and spread the blood in the surroundings, and when this happens, the mosquito takes advantage of it and takes it directly from the well that it created.

6. And the diseases?

Viruses and parasites that result in diseases are transmitted with the saliva of the female mosquito. However, not all female mosquitoes transmit viruses and parasites that cause us diseases.

Those who transmit yellow fever, malaria, dengue, and other disorders do so once they have quenched their thirst for blood. Just before leaving, they leave us as a gift the virus or the parasite with their saliva.

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This is what makes us sick and can even kill us. The virus or parasite does not really affect the insect as they only use the mosquito as a means of transport.

The perilousness of mosquitoes and their adverse effects on our health cannot be disputed. These little things are just about as deadly as drugs.

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