We have started to celebrate the arrival of summer in Australia, but it comes with the downside of an explosion of disease-carrying mosquitoes.  In this article we will look into the latest news on the mosquito population and development, what are mosquito bites, why are they so itchy and why some of us appear to be so attractive.  What are the latest natural remedies and treatment to the mosquito bites and what you can do to prevent getting bitten?

Latest News on Mosquito Diseases.

Nov 22nd, 2018

The Department of Health has reminded residents and travelers in the South West to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites over coming weeks.  This follows first detection of Ross Rover Visus in mosquitoes for this season.  Symptoms of RRV include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fatigue, and headaches.  Symptoms can last for weeks or months and the only way to properly diagnose the virus is by having a specific blood test.

Nov 16th, 2018

Two more Buruli Ulcer cases have been reported in Victoria and there is now a concern the epidemic could begin extending into new areas of Melbourne.  Until recently, this nasty ulcer was contained to Mornington and Bellarine peninsular, however, the infections have begun creeping closer to Melbourne through the south-eastern bayside suburbs including Franston.

Buruli
Nov 9th, 2018

There is currently an outbreak of a dangerous, mosquito-borne brain disease called Japanese encephalitis.  Local Australia Authorities have warned Australian tourist to be careful with their travel plans as more cases of the disease are reported.

Japanese encephalitis is considered endemic to all of Indonesia, but it’s considered most concerning in Bali at the moment.  The concern is that Japanese encephalitis has a high mortality rate, and a risk of permanent brain damage even for those who do recover.  In patients with severe cases, the mortality rate is around 20%, but many of those infected present with no symptoms.

When symptoms do appear, they include fever, headache, disorientation, neck pain, and even tremors and convulsions.

This disease is carried by mosquitoes and is most often transmitted human – to -human but can also be passed from birds, bats, cows, and pigs – so rural areas are at a particularly high risk of disease.  If you are visiting Bal soon, you can take extra precaution to protect yourself.  Check with your doctor about vaccinations that is available for Japanese encephalitis.

Buruli Ulcer

Nov 1st, 2018

There is currently an epidemic of flesh-eating ulcer and it is multiplying at a rapid rate in parts of Australia.  It is commonly referred to as the Buruli ulcer or Daintree ulcer mostly because it occurs in parts of north Queensland.Buruli Ulcer

The latest report in Victoria region confirmed infections are up 400% in the last four years.

The bacteria causes severe destructive lesions of the skin and soft tissue, resulting in significant mobility.  It can affect all age groups, including young children.

The specialist from infectious diseases Daniel O’Brien told Fairfax that Victoria is in the middle of an exploding epidemic.

The disease is believed to be spread through mosquitoes, or through the faces of possums that have been bitten by mosquitoes. Ulcer

First, it starts to look like a normal mosquito bite but over the next few weeks or months it will slowly enlarge into a deep wound and the flesh-eating begins to be eaten away.  In some severe cases, it can lead to amputation of limbs. (However, amputation is very rare).

 

The rise in Mosquito Population

According to the latest report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, insect and other vector-borne disease cases have nearly tripled in the last dozen years.  

The mosquitoes are an extremely invasive species and can introduce invasive pathogens.  It is one of the deadliest animals that kills over 725,000 people each year via a blood-borne disease.Mosquito bites

There are a lot of reasons for the rise in population – warmer weather, global travel and international trade which transports diseases and their hosts across oceans.

When temperatures rise, the time between mosquito populations shortens. The disease pathogens that are carried by mosquitoes is also influenced by weather patterns.  It reduces the time it takes when a mosquito bites an infected person and can pass on the virus is much quicker.

However, it is not just the warm weather and the presence of water that promotes mosquito population increases.

A new study finds that it is actually dehydrated mosquitoes that are more aggressive.  And in quenching their thirst with our blood may also increase the spread of a disease.  

The study at the University Of Cincinnati was conducted by accident when a worker dropped a container of water-deprived mosquitoes and noticed that they attacked him with much greater vigour than usual.

This resulted in a study of three types of mosquitoes.  The researchers concluded that 30% of mosquitoes deprived of water were fed on their host’s blood – compared with only 5 -10%  of those that had water.

What makes us so attractive to Mosquitoes?

When it comes to attraction, the allure can begin even before the mosquito sets eyes on you. There seems to be something about the way you—her dinner—smells from afar that makes you a desired target. While you are outside with friends or preparing the barbecue, that mosquito will go on the hunt and you will become the next meal.

Scientists already know there are differences among us that contribute to why some of us get bitten more than others. Those of us who exhale more carbon dioxide seem to be a natural beacon for mosquitoes, in particular. Researchers have also found a correlation with body size, with taller or larger people tending to attract more bites—perhaps because of their carbon dioxide output or body surface area. There is also some evidence women who are pregnant or at certain phases of the menstrual cycle are more attractive to mosquitoes. Other work has found that people infected with malaria are more attractive to malaria-carrying mosquitoes during their transmissible stage of infection.

Mosquito bites

When mosquitoes bite, a little bit of their saliva is deposited into your skin and proteins in mosquito saliva spark a mild allergic reaction from your immune system, which leads to inflammation and itching.

After a mosquito bite, a lump will appear.  Occasionally a mosquito bite causes a large area of swelling, soreness and redness. This type of reaction, most common in children, is sometimes referred to as skeeter syndrome.

mosquito control products

Symptoms of Mosquito Bites

Signs of mosquito bite include:

  • A puffy, white and reddish bump that appears soon after the bite
  • A hard, itchy, reddish-brown bump, or multiple bumps, appearing a day or so after the bite or bites
  • Small blisters instead of hard bumps
  • Dark spots that look like bruises

More-severe reactions may be experienced by children and adults not previously exposed to the type of mosquito that bit them and also people with immune system disorders. Mosquito bites can potentially trigger a large area of swelling and redness accompanied with low – grade fever, hives and possible swollen lymph nodes.

Children are more likely to develop a severe reaction than are adults because many adults have had mosquito bites throughout their lives and become desensitized.

There are no specific cures or registered vaccines for most of the mosquito-borne diseases.  Avoiding mosquito bites is the only way to protect yourself against them.

Viruses and parasites that are transmitted by mosquitoes can also cause illness and death in animals.  Dog heartworm is caused by a parasitic worm passed on by mosquitoes which, in large numbers, can clog the dog’s heart and seriously affect blood flow.  

Why are mosquito bites itchy?

When a mosquito draws blood with the tip of its mouth, it injects some of its own saliva, which contains an anticoagulant that prevents your blood from clotting around the proboscis.  Your immune system recognizes the proteins as a foreign substance and your body produces an immediate attack. It releases histamine reaction that causes the itching. The histamine also causes your blood vessels to enlarge, creating the circle, or swollen bump around the bite.

Your immune system could react to these allergies – inducing proteins for up to a week, which explains why an itchy bite can stay around for so long.

Not everyone has the same reaction, and some people will not even notice that they have been bitten. Over time people may also develop a tolerance to bites from mosquitoes of the same type.  But if you travel and encounter new species, you will get a severe reaction again.

Different mosquitoes produce different reactions.  For example, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which is the main vector for the Zika virus, feed during the day, with peak biting activity in the early morning and late afternoon hours.  They don’t always cause an itchy reaction. They can bite without being noticed because it approaches from behind and bites on the ankles and elbows.

mosquito bites

Why you should not scratch mosquito bites.

You will want to scratch the itch, but that will only make it itchier.  When you scratch a mosquito bite your immune system releases compounds that create even more swelling and itching.

Scratching may also increase the risk of infection if it breaks the skin.  If the area becomes infected, it will be much itchier and will take longer to heal.

Some of the infections may manifest as sores and blisters that are often filled with pus.  An inflammation will often affect hair follicles of the skin and lead to folliculitis. When large areas of the skin and underlying tissues are affected, it is called cellulitis.  

Both conditions will have to be treated with locally applied antibiotic creams and ointments while infections such as cellulitis may require oral antibiotic pills.

West Nile virus infection is also carried by mosquitoes.  The symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting. Complications can lead to meningitis which can result in death.

When to seek medical help for a mosquito bite:

See your doctor if, after being bitten, there is a lot of swelling or pus, which indicated an infection.

Call an ambulance or visit hospital if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • A fast heart rate
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Confusion, anxiety or agitation
  • Difficulty swallowing

How to stop mosquito bites from itching and mosquito bite relief

AntihistaminesAntihistamine

This is an over-the-counter medication.  It will help reduce inflammation and itching and it is a very effective and fast way to treat mosquito bite.

Applying heatApplying Heat

Applying heat to a mosquito bite may help reduce the inflammation and itching. Locally administered concentrated heat leads to a fast reduction of symptoms.  Usually, symptoms, including pain, disappear after 10 minutes on administration. All you have to do is heat up a metal spoon under hot tap water for a few minutes and press it directly against the bite.  Hold it against your skin for a couple of minutes and take it off and the itch should be gone. However, this should be administered as soon as you are bitten before the enzymes spread deeper into your skin.

A cold compress

A cold compress can also do the trick.  Anything containing essential oils like menthol, camphor, tea tree, eucalyptus, nutmeg and thymol is best.  These ingredients have anti-inflammatorymosquito bites properties, helping to reduce pain, swelling and itching. Even something like toothpaste can work.  Even though the reaction will still be there, it will give you temporary relief from itching. A simple ice cube will also numb down the itching.

Your own saliva

There have been many experiences documented where people have experienced relief from itching of mosquito bites on the application of their own saliva to the itchy spot.  It helps to reduce the itching because saliva has been proven to speed up tissue repair and has antibacterial properties. It also provides a moisturising effect on the itchy spot.  So, if you don’t have anything else around this a good option.

Apply Aloe VeraMosquito bites

Aloe Vera gel has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties for wound healing and calming infections,  The cool feeling of the gel may also soothe any itchiness.

Use a cold tea bagMosquito Prevention

Green and black tea’s anti-swelling effect may not be useful just for swollen eyes.  Tea’s anti-inflammatory effects may help with the swelling. Soak the bag of green or black tea and put in the fridge to cool down.  Apply the cold tea bag over the bite to ease the itchiness.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal Silver applied on insect bites will provide immediate relief.  Apply directly to the bite, it will provide a long-lasting immediate relief and will protect your skin from developing any infections.  It will accelerate the healing process while simultaneously helping prevent infection from setting in.

Protection against mosquitoes

Over many years it has been proven that Mosquitoes are getting resistant to the pesticides that have been used to kill them. Melinda Hadi, PhD, an entomologist with the Swiss mosquito net manufacturer Vestergaard, says that resistance in Anopheles mosquitoes is up in several countries that have the biggest problems with malaria already.  

Protecting ourselves when we do venture out is the most obvious response and something we can control. They include staying out of heavy bush and weeds, wearing protective clothing and appropriate insecticide, and most importantly, vigilantly checking ourselves for any symptoms.

Eliminating habitats for mosquitoes and ticks in private and public areas is critical.  Any standing water is a hazard as it can create a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

How to eliminate mosquitoes from your backyard

  • Dispose of all containers which hold water
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish such as goldfish.  Keep vegetation away from the water’s edge.
  • Keep your swimming pool well chlorinated, filtered and free of dead leaves.
  • Level or drain depressions in the ground that holds water.
  • Fit mosquito-proof covers to vent pipes on septic tanks systems.  It is recommended to seal all gaps around the lid and ensure leach drains are completely covered.  
  • Screen rainwater tanks with insect – proof mesh, including an inlet, overflow and inspection ports.  Remove water that is getting held in gutters and check to see if they are blocked.
  • Empty pot plants (especially bromeliads which hold water in their leaf axils).  Make sure to empty this weekly.

Every week residents should empty, scrub, turn over, cover or throw out items that hold water.

Many people are unaware that some mosquitoes can even lay eggs in a container inside the home, such as flower vases, pots and containers and these need to be checked on a regular base.

Wearing insect repelling clothing if travelling to a heavy mosquito area.

Make sure to use mosquito repellent sprays or creams to repel mosquitoes from your body. Reapply every 4 hours.

Use mosquito sprays to repel mosquitoes from the area or mosquito trap systems to lure and break the mosquito breeding cycle.

To read more about different mosquito prevention systems, click here.

 

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