“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Dalai Lama XIV

Mosquitos (which means “little flies” in Spanish) are midge –like flies. There are many different species and they feed on the blood of various hosts including humans. They act as vectors of disease, passing many harmful infections from host to host and, as such, the mosquito is arguably one of the deadliest animal families in the world.

Malaria is probably the most well-known of the mosquito borne diseases (also known as an Arbovirus) usually passed on by an infected female anopheles mosquito. Whilst it is not endemic in Australia, rarely locally acquired cases do occur and generally in Far North Queensland. In 2015, 95 countries /territories around the world had ongoing malaria transmission, putting around 3.2 billion people at risk with 438,000 deaths in that year.

There are many other potentially fatal, or severely disabling arboviruses. These include Dengue Fever, Ross River Fever, Barmah Forest Virus, Japanese Encephalitis, Murray Valley, Encephalitis, Chikungunya, West Nile Viruss (kunjin subtype), Yellow fever and the Zika Virus.

In Queensland, the most common diseases include Dengue, Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus; however, Japanese Encephalitis, Murray Valley, Encephalitis, the West Nile Virus (kunjin subtype) and Chikungunya cases have been reported in Queensland in the past. Yellow River has never been reported in Australia and no cases of locally-acquired Zika virus have been reported in Queensland as Zika is not known to be present in local mosquitoes.

The only way to avoid contracting one of these viruses is to avoid being bitten. In the case of Zika virus in particular, pregnant woman should not travel to any area where Zika virus is spreading. When in an endemic area it is very important to use effective insect repellents (eg DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus), wear long sleeve shirt and long pants and use mosquito nets at night.

There are vaccinations available for a few of the arboviruses such as Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis. Medication is also available to help prevent (and to treat Malaria) but the best defence against all mosquito borne diseases is to avoid being bitten.