Mosquitoes: Dangers, protection and treatment

With temperatures rising steadily all around the world, the mosquito population is spreading year by year and more and more tropical specimens are reaching Switzerland. Tiger mosquitoes have recently been gaining a foothold, having presumably been transported in cars to more northern regions. As a consequence, more and more diseases are spreading, and so we need better protection. Here you will find detailed information about your next destination and what preventive measures you need to take.

Disease symptoms and their treatment options:

  • Chikungunya Fever: The virus is mainly spread by the female tiger mosquito, but can also be transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito. Onset of illness usually occurs within 7 to 9 days and is characterised by high temperature (fever), severe joint and muscle pain, headache, and, in some cases, a rash. The virus is generally harmless, but can lead to long-lasting fatigue in rare cases. There is so far no effective drug, i.e. treatment is symptomatic. The symptoms can only be alleviated with anti-inflammatories and analgesics, whereby those based on salicylates are contraindicated, due to their blood-thinning effects.
  • Yellow Fever is a potentially fatal disease, which is caused by viruses transmitted through the bite of an [infected] mosquito. Within 3 to 6 days following infection, there is a sudden onset of high temperature (fever), shivering, headache, joint pain, nausea and vomiting. The symptoms should abate after 3 to 4 days. In 15% of those infected, the fever returns after 1 to 2 days, along with abdominal pain, enlarged liver, development of jaundice, kidney failure and bleeding from the skin, mucosa and gastrointestinal tract. For 20-50% of these cases, the disease is fatal. In terms of protective measures, there is a very effective vaccine, which already starts to work after 10 days and lasts a lifetime. Some countries require proof of vaccination, hence re-vaccination is necessary every 10 years. It is recommended that you consult a doctor in good time.
  • Dengue Fever is a viral disease, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, such as the yellow fever mosquito and tiger mosquito. The onset of Dengue fever usually occurs within 4 to 7 days following infection. In approximately 40-80% of cases, infection is asymptomatic. But the virus can also trigger a broad range of symptoms, such as fever, headache, aching limbs and rash. In rare cases, the disease develops into dengue shock syndrome, which may sometimes lead to death. The pathophysiology of this form is not yet fully clear. However, it frequently occurs after repeat infection with a different dengue serotype. The treatment methods are the same as for Chikungunya fever.
  • Malaria is a potentially fatal tropical disease, which is caused by parasites transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. The pathological condition causes a high temperature (fever) of over 38°C, shivering, headache, muscle pain and, occasionally, vomiting and diarrhoea. The interval between the mosquito bite and the onset of symptoms varies between 6 days to several years. The parasites proliferate firstly in the liver and later in the red blood cells. Feared above all is rapid progression with cerebral involvement, which may lead to seizures, coma and death. Before travelling to tropical countries, it is recommended that you consult a health professional approximately 4 to 6 weeks before the start of your trip. There is no vaccine for malaria; however, you can take preventative medicines or carry along [antimalarial] drugs for self-medication in an emergency.
  • The West Nile virus is a viral disease that mainly occurs in birds, though the virus can also be transmitted to humans, mammals and amphibians. The two mosquito species known as the common mosquito and Culex modestus are particularly prevalent in Europe, but so far, it has not been established that they are carriers of the West Nile virus. Humans cannot be infected by persons or animals that are already infected; nevertheless, we are aware of cases in the USA in which the virus has been transmitted during blood transfusions and organ donations, as well as from mother to child during pregnancy. Only 25% of people will develop flu-like symptoms with a high temperature (fever) and sometimes with a skin rash on the body within 2 to 14 days following infection. The disease usually abates after a few days or weeks without treatment.
  • The Zika virus poses a risk in particular for pregnant women, since the virus can pass from a pregnant woman to the foetus and cause serious neurological complications. The main preventative strategies taken to stem the Zika epidemic include vector control, using a combination of chemical (“fogging” with larvicides or insect repellents), biological (bacteria) and physical (insect sprays etc.) methods.

How to further protect myself from mosquito bites:

  • Mosquitoes are particularly fond of hunting at certain times of the day – escpecially during dusk and dawn. Therefore, pay particular attention in the evening and in the morning to effective protection, e.g. with HEROPIC STRONG mosquito repellent.
  • As mosquitoes tend to prefer dark colours, it is recommended to wear long and light dresses. However, mosquitoes can also bite through thin clothing. Therefore it is recommended to wear jeans and socks. Under thin clothing it is also advisable to use a mosquito repellent (e.g. HEROPIC NATURE mosquito repellent).
  • If you have a light sleep and are often disturbed by mosquitoes, you can use a mosquito net for your bed. However, make sure that you stuff the lower net hem under the mattress so that you are completely protected.
  • To keep unwelcome visitors outside when ventilating the living rooms, you can install mosquito nets on windows and doors. This allows the fresh air to enter and the insects to stay outside. If you do not have a grille, ventilate during the day and close windows and doors at dusk – especially before turning on the lights in the room.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still waters and accumulations of water. That is why it is important to regularly dry such accumulations of water, e.g. in vases, coasters, children’s toys etc.

As hard as it may be, don’t give in to the itching of a mosquito bite and don’t scratch yourself! As a result of scratching, the saliva released by the mosquito continues to enter the bloodstream and is distributed there, which can lead to a more extensive inflammatory reaction in the body and in the worst case, even blood poisoning. But what to do against itching?

In the first moment you can place a damp, preferably hot washcloth on the puncture to destroy bacteria. Afterwards, however, a cooling treatment to alleviate itching should be carried out.