Mosquito Bites: Everyone is at Risk!
The most effective way to avoid getting sick from viruses spread by mosquitoes is to prevent mosquito bites.
Almost everyone in the world has been bitten by a mosquito. Although most kinds of mosquitoes are just nuisance mosquitoes, some kinds of mosquitoes spread viruses that can cause disease. For most viruses spread by mosquitoes, no vaccines or medicines are available. Mosquitoes bite during the day and night, live indoors and outdoors, and search for warm places as temperatures begin to drop. Some will hibernate in enclosed spaces, like garages, sheds, and under (or inside) homes, to survive cold temperatures. Except for the southernmost states in North America, mosquito season starts in the summer and continues into fall.
Mosquito bites can make you sick
Disease epidemics from viruses spread by mosquitoes are happening more often, including the recent Zika (2015-2017) and chikungunya (2013-2014) epidemics. West Nile virus is the most common virus spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. In the United States, people can also get sick from less common viruses spread by mosquitoes, like La Crosse encephalitis or St. Louis encephalitis. From 2004 to 2016, most US cases of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika were reported in US territories.
Protect against mosquito bites
Use insect repellent: When used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Use an (EPA)-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
- Cover up: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Keep mosquitoes outside: Use air conditioning or window and door screens. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
For more information: https://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/fs_mosquito_bite_prevention_us.pdf
Planning a trip?
Make a check list of everything you’ll need for an enjoyable vacation and use the following resources to help you prepare.
- Learn about destination-specific health risks and recommendations by visiting CDC Travelers’ Health website.
- Pack a travel health kit. Remember to pack insect repellent and use it as directed to prevent mosquito bites.
- See a healthcare provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip.
- Go to the Find a Clinic webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
Do your homework before you travel
For most viruses spread by mosquitoes, no vaccines or medicines are available. However, vaccines are available for viruses like Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever. Travelers to areas with risk of those viruses should get vaccinated.
- Even if they do not feel sick, travelers should prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after their trip so they do not spread viruses like dengue, Zika, or chikungunya to uninfected mosquitoes.
- If you have been travelling and have symptoms including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and rash, see your healthcare provider immediately and be sure to share your travel history.
What can state and local public health agencies do?
- Build and sustain public health programs that test and track diseases and mosquitoes that spread them. .
- Train vector control staff on five core competencies for conducting prevention and control activities.
- Educate the public about how to prevent control mosquito-borne diseases in their communities.
What is CDC doing?
- Funding states and territories to detect and respond to infections from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas and report cases to CDC.
- Partnering with local and tribal health departments, industry, universities, and international groups to detect and respond to diseases from mosquito .
- Supporting five regional centers of excellence to address emerging diseases from mosquitoes and ticks.
- Developing and improving laboratory and diagnostic tests for these diseases.
- Educating the public about protecting themselves from diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Remember, everyone can help control mosquitoes. Take action to protect yourself, your family, and your community: use insect repellent, cover up, and keep mosquitoes outside. For more information about CDC’s work on vector-borne diseases, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/stories-features/browse/subjects/vectorborne-diseases.html
CDC Media Relations
Janet McAllister, PhD
“Mosquito control is much more than just spraying. To be effective, we need to use all the tools available to us in order to design and implement mosquito control programs that work at the community level.”
Janet McAllister, PhD – Medical entomologist , Arboviral Diseases Branch, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases
Christopher Gregory, MD, MPH
“We know mosquito-borne diseases are not going away. There will be another outbreak in the United States. How soon, which disease, and how big are unknown. We must be prepared for the unexpected and ready to respond anytime and anywhere.”
Christopher Gregory, MD, MPH – Chief, Arboviral Diseases Branch (ADB), Division of Vector-Borne Diseases
Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH
“Vector-borne diseases are on the rise. Disease cases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites more than tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016.”
“Infected travelers can spread pathogens, like Zika, across the world in a day. Mosquitoes and ticks move into new areas of the United States, causing more people to be at risk.”
“Local health departments and vector control organizations are the nation’s main defense against this increasing threat. Yet, 84% of local vector control organizations lack 1 or more of 5 core vector control competencies. Better control of ticks and mosquitoes is needed to protect people from these costly and deadly diseases.”
Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH – Director, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
- Page last reviewed: May 1, 2018
- Page last updated: May 1, 2018
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