Mosquitoes! A biting nuisance…

Mosquitoes! A biting nuisance…

There’s no doubt about it: mosquitoes are annoying. And even worse, their bites are itchy, can get infected and sometimes transmit serious diseases like malaria, as well as viral pathogens such as dengue, yellow fever and the West Nile virus. Therefore, foreign mosquito species entering new countries may not only produce ecological stress but they are also considered a potential threat to public health.
This has been the case of many agricultural pests unknowingly embarked within plant shipments, leading occasionally to establishment in destination countries and challenging local economies as well as natural systems.
As the world is becoming a smaller place, presently even mosquitoes travel by jet plane, carrying diseases that they spread in areas where they were unknown. All in a matter of hours… without having to pay for a ticket! Even more interesting, some of them manage to happily move in and adapt to their “new house”.
The aggressive Tiger Mosquito, normally found in Asia, travels in other ways … not so sophisticated! Global dispersal occurred through international transportation of its drought-resistant eggs in used tires or Lucky Bamboo plants. As well as being a biting nuisance, its potential to carry a wide range of human pathogens is consequently of global concern.
Tiger Mosquito is a particularly vicious form of mosquito, living where there is stagnant water. It differs from his other cousin, the “common mosquito”, because it carries out its attacks by day instead of night, its stings are extremely painful and it is capable of stinging someone through the clothes they are wearing.
Let me make it very clear: one thing is the mosquito and another quite different thing is the disease. As long as a mosquito does not itself become infected by a disease, it obviously cannot pass it on to a human being.
While the risk of getting diseases from mosquitoes is low, the risk of being annoyed by mosquitoes is high, as mosquitoes may be so annoying that spending time outdoors turns from a pleasure into a nightmare. Common mosquitoes are most prevalent at dawn and dusk, but who will accept to be forced to stay closed indoors during those periods?

Keeping mosquitoes at bay…

There is no guarantee but at least one can always try! Insect repellents are one good way to keep mosquitoes at bay … possibly. But repellents don’t kill mosquitoes. Repellents simply make you more difficult to find and so does light-colour clothing, since they are more attracted to darker colours. Electronic insect control systems and citronella-scented candles are only hopeful possibilities.
Mosquitoes need stagnant or standing water to breed so eliminating standing water, especially after rains, will reduce the annoying little beasts.
We can only try to do our best, controlling them is a different story.

Why do they always bite me?

I hear this question every day at this time of the year. But why do some people get bitten and others don’t? What actually attracts mosquitoes?
Research concluded that it is your parents’ fault if they like you, as genetics account for 85% of the individual susceptibility to mosquito bites, but the concentration of certain acids on the skin can also help to attract the nasty little “vampires”… so it is your own special smell!

Dangerous females

Were you aware that female mosquitoes are the only ones that bite? They need the blood to develop fertile eggs. Males? They just hang around doing nothing.
If a female mosquito finds you to be a tasty “dish”, be careful as the results can be threatening.
In the Algarve, the risk of contracting diseases carried by mosquitoes, such as malaria and the now in-vogue West Nile Virus, is extremely low. This is still a privileged tiny corner of the world, for several reasons!
The “travelling fever” has gone from humans to mosquitoes, being much more easy for them as they are diminutive clandestine passengers almost impossible to find and “catch”, so tiny and elusive that they travel easily without being noticed.
So far there are no Tigers in Portugal … mosquitoes I mean! Thus for now we can only do our best to avoid turning into a feast for the not-so-exciting “common mosquitoes”, hoping that the other ones will choose another place to live, whenever they decide to widen their horizons and move from their home countries into a new environment.
Who said that only Man could do it? Travelling I mean…
Best health wishes,
Maria Alice
By Dr Maria Alice
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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. Administrator/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve