Although summer is long gone, Israelis are still facing a surge in mosquitoes and their relentless bites. There are a number of reasons for this, including the ongoing war with Hamas in the South.
It is important to note that many nature areas in the South have recently turned into important military positions. These locations produce waste and stagnant water, which are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Moreover, due to the war, there has been a lack of treatment for breeding areas in the South, allowing mosquitoes to thrive.
While mosquitoes are not known for extensive migration, their abundance in the South can indirectly impact other parts of Israel. Additionally, the warm and sunny days in the fall and Israeli winter contribute to the continued presence of mosquitoes.
Are mosquitoes dangerous? Or is it the diseases they carry?
It is essential to understand that it is not the mosquito itself that is the problem, but rather the diseases they carry. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mosquitoes are responsible for the highest number of annual deaths worldwide — approximately 750,000 victims. These deaths result from the myriad of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes during their bites.
A single mosquito can bite multiple people in one night, making the danger even more significant.
Mosquito-borne diseases can have severe health implications, affecting both the body and the skin. The ease with which mosquitoes penetrate the skin and transfer contaminants from one person to the next highlights the potential for serious illnesses.
Some of the diseases associated with mosquito bites include:
- Malaria: Widely prevalent and characterized by symptoms such as fever, headaches, and chills, which typically manifest 10 to 15 days after being bitten. Fatal forms of malaria also exist, with over 247 million cases diagnosed annually. It is particularly common in the Far East and Central and South America.
- West Nile virus: This viral disease has previously surfaced in Israel. It can be transmitted to humans as well as animals through mosquitoes carrying the virus in their blood. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on birds with the disease, subsequently spreading it to healthy individuals. West Nile virus is found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America, occasionally resurfacing in Israel.
- Dengue fever: A viral infection prevalent in approximately 100 countries. Most cases have mild or unnoticed symptoms, but severe and dangerous cases also occur. The disease can cause severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, high fever, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, and, in some cases, death. The Aedes mosquito transmits dengue fever, mainly found in tropical areas such as India, Bangladesh, and recently, Israel.
- Zika virus: Often asymptomatic, but capable of causing muscle and joint pain, headaches, fever, rash, and conjunctivitis. Pregnant women face the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or babies born with birth defects. Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact and may remain active for an extended period without symptoms. Initially reported in Africa and Asia near the equator, it has since spread to other parts of the Americas.
- Chikungunya: A viral disease that causes severe symptoms such as fever, intense joint pain, headaches, eye infections, and rashes. Joint pain can be so severe that it immobilizes individuals and leads to disabilities. Originating from tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Chikungunya has been reported in South and Central America since 2013.
- Yellow fever: Infected female mosquitoes can transmit this disease, leading to symptoms like headache, fever, muscle aches, and nausea. The infection gets its name from the yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by jaundice. Yellow fever symptoms are usually mild, disappearing within a few days. It originates from Africa.
Even if most mosquito bites do not result in serious illness, they can cause severe pain, local swelling, allergic reactions, and other skin-related symptoms, especially in children. Individuals often experience itching, sores, and even localized infections. In some cases, pigmentation spots or scars may develop on the skin. Mosquitoes also disrupt sleep and become a major nighttime nuisance. It is important to note that not everyone is equally attractive to mosquitoes. Factors such as blood type, skin bacteria, and body temperature can make individuals more susceptible to mosquito attacks.
How to prevent mosquito bites
- Preventing mosquito bites: Use protective measures such as mosquito nets, repellents, electrifiers, mosquito repellent suspensions, or special candles to keep mosquitoes away. Ensure the environment around you is dry and free from stagnant water sources, such as pools or containers.
- Managing bites: If bitten, soothe the irritation with aloe vera gel or an ointment containing antihistamines. Local sedative products available in pharmacies can help reduce the diameter of skin irritation.
- Allergic reactions: Individuals with high sensitivity or previous allergic reactions to mosquito bites should carry antiallergic medication. In case of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention promptly and follow the prescribed treatment.
- Addressing infections: If skin or respiratory tract infections develop after a mosquito bite, consult a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Local treatment may require the use of antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading or causing further complications.
- Avoid scratching: Despite the temptation, refrain from scratching mosquito bites as it aggravates the local reaction and prolongs itching. Scratching may introduce external contaminants, leading to potential skin infections.