Ticks & Mosquitoes: Vector-borne diseases

Vector-borne diseases cause approximately 700,000 deaths annually and account for about 17% of all infectious diseases. 

A vector-borne disease is caused by a vector, such as a mosquito, tick, or flea.

Examples of vector-borne diseases include “…malaria, dengue, schistosomiasis, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and onchocerciasis.” These illnesses are most common in tropical and subtropical areas.

Dangers of Ticks & Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes and ticks are the most common cause of vector-borne diseases.  

Mosquitoes can cause the following diseases:

  • Aedes mosquito:
    • Chikungunya
    • Dengue
    • Lymphatic filariasis
    • Rift Valley fever
    • Yellow fever
    • Zika
  • Anopheles mosquito:
    • Malaria
    • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Culex mosquito
    • Japanese encephalitis
    • Lymphatic filariasis
    • West Nile fever

Ticks can cause the following diseases:

  • Crimean-Congo haemmorhagic fever
  • Lyme disease
  • Relapsing fever (borreliosis)
  • Rickettsial diseases
  • Tick-borne encephalitis
  • Tularemia

Though mosquitoes and ticks are the most common causes of vector-borne diseases, lice, sandflies, fleas, aquatic snails, and blackflies can all cause vector-borne diseases. 

How to Identify a Tick

According to TickCheck, there are hundreds of tick species worldwide. However, there are only a few types that commonly cause tick-borne disease; “…the majority of tick-borne diseases transmitted to humans and pets are carried by three main tick groups: blacklegged ticks (including the deer tick), dog ticks, and lone star ticks.”

Knowing how to identify them is important if you want to protect yourself –

  • A deer tick is small, and most are the size of a sesame seed. They are the most common tick in the United States. They have a reddish body with a black dorsal shield, and are most commonly found in the Great Lakes, upper Midwest, and east coast.
  • The western blacklegged tick looks almost identical to the deer tick but with a more oval body. However, this tick lives on the west coast.
  • The lone star tick is medium-sized, reddish-brown, and round. It has a white dot on the female’s dorsal shield. Though they are most common in the southeastern United States, they are migrating and have been found as far north as Maine.
  • American dog ticks are the largest common tick. They are brown with ornate dorsal shields, often with white markings. They are often found on dogs but can be found on humans.  They are typically found in areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

How to Identify a Mosquito

Most people have experienced the nuisance of a mosquito bite and have no problem identifying the pesky bug. However, in case you have avoided these annoying insects, please read on for tips on identifying them.

Mosquitoes can be identified by the following parts –

  • They have two wings.
  • They have hair-like scales that cover their bodies.
  • They have a long proboscis, which is made up of various parts that allows them to suck up fluids such as nectar and blood.

The species of mosquito can be identified by their coloring –

  • The Northern house mosquito is pale brown with whitish bands on the abdomen
  • Yellow fever mosquitoes have white markings on their legs
  • Asian tiger mosquitoes are black with white markings on its body and legs

Mosquitoes are often mistaken for the crane fly, mayflies, and midges – none of which bite.

How to Safely Protect Yourself from Ticks & Mosquitoes

There are several habits that can protect you from both ticks and mosquitoes –

  • Select a mosquito repellent that contains 30% DEET; a product that contains DEET or permethrin protects from mosquitoes and ticks.
  • There are tick species active most months of the year; this is also true of mosquitoes. Be aware of the type of vector that you may expose yourself to when venturing out into the woods.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from mosquitoes – 

  • Wear loose-fitting, light clothing. If in an area with especially heavy mosquito population, perhaps wear a head net.
  • Avoid outdoor activity during peak mosquito feeding times; for example, the Culex feeds at dawn and dusk, and the Aedes feeds during the day.
  • Mosquitoes thrive on moisture. Throw out any items that may hold water, such as unneeded or unused buckets, cans, and toys.
  • Use air conditioning instead of opening windows.
  • Repair screens on windows and doors.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from ticks –

  • Check for ticks at least once per day. Research indicates that most ticks must be attached to the skin for at least 48 hours to transmit disease, though anaplasmosis may be transmitted more quickly.
  • Shower when coming in from outdoors; this increases the likelihood that a tick will be found.
  • Remove ticks promptly –
    • Use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick by the head.
    • Pull the tick out of the skin slowly and gently.
    • Clean the area with soap and water.
  • Check clothing and gear for ticks before bringing indoors.
  • Keeping the lawn short, leaves raked, and yard free of brush can minimize the likelihood of ticks living in the yard.

Resources

Preventing Mosquitoborne Disease. (2020). Minnesota Department of Health. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/mosquitoborne/prevention.html

Preventing Tickborne Disease. (2019). Minnesota Department of Health. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/tickborne/prevention.html

Tick Identification Guide. (n.d.). Www.Tickcheck.Com. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.tickcheck.com/info/tick-identification

Vector-borne diseases. (2020, March 2). Who.Int; World Health Organization: WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/vector-borne-diseases

What Does a Mosquito Look Like? (n.d.). Terminix.Com. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.terminix.com/blog/whats-buzzing/simple-ways-to-identify-a-mosquito/

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