And the Award for the World’s Deadliest Creature Goes To…
There are a lot of threats from living creatures that humans have to contend with. Being bitten, stung or otherwise exposed to a wide-range of toxins from a huge number of creatures is one of the biggest threats to our survival. Many species of reptiles, amphibians, marine life, disease-carrying mammals and insects all pose varying degrees of danger. However, the single and most deadly of them all may surprise you. It’s the lowly mosquito.
Mosquitoes Impact Millions Every Year
Believe it or not, mosquitoes take more human lives each year than almost all other creatures combined. In fact, estimates suggest that anywhere from 750,000 to a million people die from diseases that are transmitted by mosquito bites on an annual basis. Millions more are exposed, infected, and sometimes scarred for life after being bitten by the wrong mosquito at the wrong time.
Mosquitoes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and different species carry different diseases. Some are even capable of carrying more than one. One big part of the problem is their resilience. They can adapt and survive in a variety of different climates, and some even thrive in places where there is not a lot of water. Research is also uncovering how a number of species are capable of quickly developing resistance to repellents.
Some can become resistant to DEET, the most popular repellent in the world, in just a few hours. Let that sink in for a moment. You have a backyard party or spend some time in nature during hours when mosquitoes are the most active. You cover yourself from head to toe with repellent and think you’re safe. However, some mosquito who has been exposed to DEET earlier in the day, or the day before, suddenly bites you because they’re immune to the repellent. This is scary stuff.
Zika is NOT the Only Threat
While the Zika virus is getting the most attention these days, and it’s impact on humans keeps expanding as researchers scramble to learn more, Zika, so far, pales in comparison to other diseases. To make matters worse, there are very few vaccines available that effectively protect people against the deadliest ones. This includes Zika, Malaria and Dengue fever. In a nutshell, mosquitoes arguably present a greater threat to our health and well-being than most of the threats that we are trying to defend against.
Help is on the Way
Scientists have discovered a way to expose mosquitoes to a process that alters their genetic code and inhibits reproduction. However, we’re still a few years a way from seeing the widespread implementation of this solution on a global scale. This could change as we learn more about Zika and its impact on humans and governments attempt to do everything they can to eradicate them. However, there’s also the risk that eradicating mosquitoes, or even a significant portion of their population, could have widespread ramifications in the food web that can end up impacting more people than the diseases they cause.
No matter how we slice it, mosquitoes are deadly creatures that should be treated as such. While game-changing solutions to this global threat may be only a few years away, this is little comfort because there’s not much we can do in the here and now to protect ourselves.
Take every step possible to protect yourself against mosquitoes, including using a multi-layered approach to defense. This involves making your environment as inhospitable to mosquitoes as well as repelling them. Some examples of things that we can all do on the repellent-side of things include shielding living areas with nets, wearing appropriate clothing when they are active and using repellents, whether they come in the form of commercial products or natural remedies.
While these steps alone will not eliminate mosquito problems altogether, they can go a long way to minimize risk. Don’t underestimate the threat from mosquitoes, because it will continue to get a lot worse before it gets better. However, the more informed and prepared you are can go a long way to protect you and your family as much as possible.