You have probably heard that mosquitoes are dangerous and that they spread disease. However, the bestknown mosquito diseases - malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever - are most common in tropical areas where Aedes mosquitoes are prevalent. Many of the mosquitoes in Michigan belong to the Culex genus, and they do not carry the pathogens that cause these tropical diseases.
Does this mean that mosquitoes in Michigan are not really a threat? Well, not exactly. While you are unlikely to contract malaria after being bitten by mosquitoes in your yard, Michigan mosquitoes can spread certain diseases.
West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus is carried by the Culex mosquitoes common in Michigan. The disease has a somewhat complex life cycle. Birds carry the virus and transmit it to mosquitoes, and then mosquitoes pass the disease on to humans, horses, cats, dogs, and other mammals.
West Nile has broken out many times in Michigan, so Michigan residents should know the symptoms. Most people only develop flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and a rash. Full recovery is expected, but fatigue can linger for months. In rare cases, people develop a more serious form of the disease that causes a high fever, stiff neck, seizures, paralysis, and sometimes death.
West Nile is most common and most serious in older adults, which makes mosquito control vital for anyone with older family members living at home. A doctor can diagnose West Nile with a blood test. The disease has no overt treatment, but supportive therapies like pain relievers and IV fluids can keep you comfortable while your body fights the virus.
St. Louis Encephalitis
St. Louis Encephalitis is caused by a virus similar to the West Nile Virus. Like West Nile, it is harbored by birds and spread to humans and other animals by biting Culex mosquitoes. Birds do not become ill when infected with the St. Louis Encephalitis virus, but other animals do. The virus cannot be spread directly from person to person.
People typically become ill between 5 and 15 days after being infected with a mosquito carrying this virus. Symptoms mimic those of the flu, but as with West Nile, a more serious, neurological form of the disease can develop, leading to disorientation, coma, and paralysis. Seriously ill patients may require respiratory therapy, hospitalization, and IV fluids. St. Louis Encephalitis can be very dangerous and has a mortality rate of up to 30%.
La Crosse Encephalitis
La Crosse Encephalitis is a disease spread by the Aedes mosquito. Although few Aedes mosquitoes are found in Michigan, their numbers are increasing, and the CDC records cases of the disease each year in the continental U.S - many of which occur in the Midwestern states. People in wooded areas are at the highest risk, since Aedes mosquitoes tend to inhabit these areas.
La Crosse Encephalitis causes nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, fever, and headaches. It is most serious in children under the age of 16, sometimes causing seizures and paralysis in these patients. La Crosse Encephalitis has no overt treatment, and since this disease has no vaccine, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent mosquitoes from swarming in your yard.
Here's the bottom line. You do not need to be as concerned about the mosquitoes in your Michigan yard as you do about mosquitoes you encounter on a tropical vacation. However, even local mosquitoes can and do spread disease, so you should still take steps to avoid being bitten.
Wear long sleeves and pants when the mosquitoes are out. Use mosquito repellents as needed, and avoid letting water accumulate on your property; mosquitoes could breed in it.
Have you been noticing an increasing number of mosquitoes on your land? Contact Maple Lane Pest Control. We'll identify the mosquito breeding areas in your area and help you get rid of these disease-carrying pests.