Meet the World’s Deadliest Animals: Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes

A few summers ago, I was backpacking with my son in California’s Kings Canyon National Park. We climbed a couple of peaks, enjoyed superb views of the Sierra mountains and eagerly anticipated the beauty of Volcanic Lakes.

But as we approached our destination, a dark haze emerged over the closest lake. Soon we were surrounded by thousands upon thousands of mosquitoes.

Backpacking near water often means encountering these annoying creatures, but on that day the insects forced us to skip lunch. If we had tried to eat, our sandwiches would have been encased in mosquitoes!

I returned home with plenty of itchy bites and lumps, but thankfully the attacks from these mosquitoes did not put my life in danger.

While there are over 3,500 species of mosquito worldwide, only a small number are known to transmit diseases — In fact, only female mosquitoes need to consume blood. Males simply feed on flower nectar.

But even that small number is deadly.

The yellow fever mosquito — Aedes aegypti — and the Asian tiger mosquito — Aedes albopictus – are two U.S. species that carry the Zika virus. So far this year, 137 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the U.S.

And the northern house mosquito — Culex pipiens — is a primary transmitter of West Nile disease, which has killed more than 1,700 people across the country.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association, over one million people die from mosquito-borne diseases every year across the globe — the vast majority from malaria. And millions more suffer greatly.

The Deadliest Animal

“Mosquitos are perhaps the most dangerous animals in the world. They are the primary vectors for major human diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever,” affirmed Omar Akbar, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of California at Riverside. He added that the World Health Organization believes 50 percent of the world’s population is at risk from mosquito-borne diseases.

In addition to the Zika virus, the West Nile virus and malaria, numerous people are sickened and killed by mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.

How does such a tiny insect become the most dangerous creature in the world?

A Public Health Emergency

On February 1, 2016, Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization made this announcement“I am now declaring a public health emergency of international concern,” as a result of research related to mosquito-borne diseases.

In the U.S., the spread of Zika drew attention to the threat posed by mosquitoes. President Obama was among many who raised the alarm last year: “Zika is a serious threat to Americans, especially babies, right now,” he said.

Now, the CDC reports that 36 states across the country have reported at least one case of this disease. This world map clearly shows that Zika is now a global problem.

Over the past few years, the rate of infection from disease-carrying mosquitoes has risen drastically, and a growing number of scientists fear that a warmer world — one more hospitable to mosquitos — along with the increase in global travel and trade, will lead to an explosive growth of such diseases worldwide.

Take Action

Understanding the urgent need for action on an international scale, Care2 has partnered with Discovery to raise awareness of the dangers posed by mosquitoes. On July 6, a new documentary called “Mosquito” will air on the Discovery channel to address these global challenges.

Discovery calls the mosquito “the single greatest agent of death in modern human history” and focuses on the “increasing global threat this tiny animal poses and the potential lethal ramifications without a worldwide coordinated effort.”

In addition to watching Discovery’s new film, you can take action by signing Care2′s petition and calling on world leaders to curb the threat of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

As the petition states:

Join us by adding your name to raise awareness of mosquito-borne diseases and offer support to the United Nations, relevant government agencies, NGOs and business leaders to continue to come together to make mosquito control and pandemic preparedness a global priority.

We must take action now to prevent a mosquito-caused pandemic.

Photo Credit: thinkstock

37 comments

H M
H M2 months ago

Is anyone else on a mobile device having problems getting the Discovery Channel video from Youtube to load? I don't know why Care2 didn't ask permission to upload it directly from Discovery instead.

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

I'm highly allergic to mosquitoes and resent that I have t stay indoors during the best part of the day, viz. sundown.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O4 months ago

Mossies breed in standing water. Even a vase of flowers will do if left three days in a warm climate.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O4 months ago

Mosses follow women more because their blood smells sweeter, due to eating and drinking sweeter foods and drinks. Leave out the sugar and dessert.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O4 months ago

Don't wear perfume or use scented soaps. Mossies are attracted to the scents.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE4 months ago

I quite agree with Clare N.

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Clare Newbury
Clare Newbury4 months ago

Recipe for non-toxic (to humans) mosquito and tick repellent: 8 oz. grapeseed or other thin plant-based oil for a sprayable liquid repellent. Add 10 drops of the following essential oils: geranium, peppermint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, pennyroyal and lavender, plus 5 drops of citronella and tea tree oil. Shake the liquid before spraying it on exposed skin, clothing, hat, and shoes. You may be surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes, but they won't land and bite. If they do start landing on you, re-apply the spray.

Mosquitoes are terrible, but I still think humans are the most dangerous creatures on the planet, to ourselves as well as to many other species.

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Angeles M
Angeles M4 months ago

Oooops!

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Virginia Abreu de Paula

Here in Brazil we also have the sand mosquito that brings Leishmaniosis. Public health doesn't really do a good job so the disease grows and the main victims are the dogs. Because, in spite of the possibility ot treament, it is rather expensive and they simply kill the dogs that may be contaminated. Some are not, but the exams give false positive results. It is really terrible how the health agents simply doesn't care for the dogs.

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Cruel J
Cruel J4 months ago

I can't leave my house without protective clothing because I'm allergic to their bite.

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