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Zika is not the only problem from mosquitoes

Alarm is setting in everywhere about the Zika virus. Certainly for younger women who are starting to have children, the concern is very serious and it is good news that the World Health Organisation and other organizations around the world are now looking at this with real urgency.

But for most of us, Zika is only just one of the many health hazards that can be inflicted by those pesky mosquitoes that seem to inhabit so many of the holiday destinations we want to visit.

Malaria is of course the problem most readily associated with mosquitoes, and rightly so, because if it is not diagnosed and treated properly, it can be fatal.  It is also high risk because malaria carrying mosquitoes can be found in more than 100 countries worldwide, mainly in the tropics. The incubation period is around 7 to 18 days and symptoms including shaking chills and high fever with profuse sweating, often in cycles,  plus headache and nausea.

Dengue fever is being talked about a lot more now as this is another common viral infection spread by mosquitoes and it is also widespread in tropical and sub-tropical areas. The symptoms usually develop within 4 to 10 days of becoming infected and can include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and sometimes a rash.

 There are actually four types of dengue virus and being infected by one of them is very rarely fatal. But if a person who is already infected by one type of dengue then gets infected from a different type, then the fever can develop into severe dengue fever which can be fatal.

Another disease that is brought on by mosquitoes is chikyngynya fever; this is widespread and again very much a tropical and sub-tropical problem, especially in Africa, South East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines. The symptoms are unpleasant and similar to the others including fever, headache, fatigue, nausea and possibly a rash, but the illness usually resolves itself after a few days and serious complications are very rare.

And then we come back to Zika which has been making headline news in recent weeks. Unless you are pregnant, or about to get pregnant, Zika can be less worrying than malaria and dengue fever. Symptoms can include fever, a rash, joint pain and pink eyes and you can feel unwell of course, but according to the World Health Organisation, no deaths have been reported from Zika and many people who have had the disease have had no symptoms at all and did not know they had been infected.

There are over 3,500 different types of mosquitoes and these diseases are usually only carried by one or two specific species.

But the best way to protect yourself against these diseases is to try and avoid being bitten by any mosquito. This is never easy in a tropical environment but thanks to modern developments,  clothing impregnated with insect repellent and a range of insect repellent sprays, coils and other devices can all help to keep one safe.

If you are planning a trip to a mosquito infected area, the key is to do the research first and a good place to start is with the National Health’s Fit for Travel website.


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