Vacationers who travel to other countries, and now even certain areas of Europe and the southern United States, can return with mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow fever, West Nile fever and Zika fever.
What is the common factor connecting all these disease outbreaks? They are all spread by several species of female mosquitoes. Most are spread through bites from Aedes mosquitoes,with the species Aedes aegypti identified as the most common vector, though recently many other species have been associated with these outbreaks.
When you consider that there over 3,000 different species of mosquitoes currently identified throughout the world you gain some perspective of how and why it is difficult to successfully and continually suppress the spread of these diseases.
If you are one of the millions of people who travel to other areas of the world for your holidays, or even on business, you may be at risk and should be familiar with the symptoms of these diseases.
More importantly you should be well-prepared and up to date with the latest advisories, if any, in respect of your destination country to ensure that you are subjected to the least amount of disruption and/or discomfort during your travels - we want you to stay safe, travel safe and enjoy life!
Recently, in June 2019, the UK Foreign Office took the step of including mosquitoes among the potential perils of travel to Greece.
Health officials are urging holidaymakers to take precautions against West Nile virus following an unprecedented outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease last year during which a record 316 people were infected with the virus last year, resulting in the death of 50 Greeks.
Italy and Cyprus, two other major holiday destinations, are also amongst the handful of other European countries that have seen an increase in West Nile virus incidence in recent times.
Zika Virus has been responsible for outbreaks in tropical areas throughout the world and was found in 2015 for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in much of the Caribbean, The Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and mainland USA.
August 2019 saw Europe’s first cases of native Zika being confirmed by the World Health organisation( WHO) all located on the French Riviera. This is the first recorded incidence of any European country having risk of locally-acquired Zika.
Until now, the 2,600 cases of Zika detected in Europe dating from 2015 (when when the outbreak in South America began!) have been as result of tourists visiting other continents, getting infected and bringing the disease back with them.
Professor James Logan, head of the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is quoted as saying: "It’s one thing for travellers to come back to a country with a disease, that happens all the time, it’s another thing completely when a disease is transmitted locally as it demonstrates capacity. We now have a new exotic disease in Europe."
In the case of Zika, most people have minimal symptoms or no symptoms, but if symptoms do occur, they’re usually mild and last around two to seven days. For most people, Zika virus causes a very mild infection and is not harmful.
For pregnant women the UK NHS advise that contracting Zika may be more serious, as there's evidence it causes birth defects – in particular, abnormally small heads (microcephaly).
According to The World Health Organisation - Europe the symptoms of having contracted Zika include:
Medications used to prevent infection are available for malaria and vaccines are currently available for yellow fever. Avoidance of mosquito bite zones whenever possible and, of course, the use of mosquito repellent are recommended when travelling to affected areas.
Chikungunya virus is primarily found in Africa and Asia yet was found in 2013 for the first time in the Western Hemisphere.
Dengue fever is primarily a tropical disease and rarely occurs within the continental United States. It is however quite common in South East Asia, India, Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean and in the Virgin Islands. In recent years, Dengue has also even occurred in southern US states, including Texas and Florida.
Malaria is still a public health concern in more than 100 countries of the world, primarily in tropical zones including Africa, Asia, Central and South America and is still a concern in North America even though local exposure to the disease hasn’t occurred in nearly 100 years.
Yellow Fever virus is a rare tropical illness with vaccination being one of the most important steps in prevention. However, a recent outbreak and upsurge in reported cases in Brazil (371 cases reported, with 241 deaths up to March 2017) has caused concern amongst the US medical profession that it could spread into city populations and then further afield.
If you care to read more about the habits of these airborne pests here.
Our Bug Repellents can help keep the carriers of these diseases away; prevention is always better than a cure!
But please note that no repellent is guaranteed to be 100% effective, so you should always re-apply frequently as required by the environment you are travelling in, so please read our other blog advice on how best to apply your Bug Repellent effectively!
Mentioned at the top of this article was the term 'mosquito zone', by this I was referring not just to the geographical location of these bugs but also to the time of day that they are most active.
Most, but not all, mosquito species are crepuscular and thereby feed at dawn and dusk and for a few hours into the night.
However, there a few of the more aggressive mosquito species will 'be on the hunt for a feed' at any time of day!
More great hints and tips on what to wear/not to wear to attract mosquitoes, what areas to avoid, what time of day best to avoid going out to mosquito areas and many more can be found here.
Medical advice should always be sought if you consider you may have been infected in anyway!
Best regards and safe travels,
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