How do viruses spread through mosquitoes?

Ways of transmission

Mosquitoes are not only very annoying when you try to fall asleep, they can also cause many virus infections. Sander Koenraad of the Wageningen University explains that female mosquitoes need blood to produce eggs. When they bite you, they inject a tiny bit of saliva. This saliva contains anticoagulant proteins that stop your blood from clotting, enabling the mosquito to drink your blood more easily.

By biting and ingesting the blood of an infected person, a mosquito becomes a carrier of a virus. The virus develops inside the mosquito and ends up in its saliva glands. As soon as this happens, the mosquito can spread the virus to other people it bites.

Which viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes can carry a lot of different viruses. For instance Zika, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever and Dengue. Malaria is also transmitted by mosquitoes, but Malaria is a parasite and not a virus.

The strange thing is that not all types of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting diseases. There are more than 3.500 different types of mosquitoes, but only a handful can transmit viruses. Unfortunately, these mosquitoes are some of the most widespread types.

Ways of transmission

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes. Draping a mosquito net over your bed or applying a mosquito repellant with DEET on your skin are often the first things people think about.

You can also try to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your surroundings. Female mosquitoes need stagnant water to lay their eggs. By making sure there are no small puddles, bowls, buckets or other containers filled with water in and around your environment, you help reduce the number of new mosquitoes.

Vaccination and treatment

Dr. Bimo of the Dr Soetomo hospital in Surabaya tells us, that for most of the viruses transmitted by mosquitoes there are no vaccines available as of yet. Fortunately, for some viruses, like Yellow Fever, an effective vaccine is available. Many of the infections are quite similar in their symptoms. Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika all cause (very!) high fevers, muscle pains and just general awfulness.

Most diseases can’t be cured, they need to be fought off by your immune system. There is often no more you can do than staying in bed, drinking plenty of water and taking simple painkillers like paracetamol to keep the fever under control. If symptoms get really worse, you might need to be taken to the hospital for close observation and supportive treatment like fluid replacement.