According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mosquitoes kill more than one million people around the world every year. For humans, there is no deadlier animal to contend with than the loathsome mosquito. A plague for people everywhere (except Antarctica), mosquitoes are known to carry deadly parasites that cause illnesses like malaria, encephalitis, dengue fever, and yellow fever. Even harmless mosquito bites can be troublesome with their tendency to itch and swell. Understanding this menace, however, can help you combat it.

How Do Mosquitoes Cause Disease?

Mosquitoes carry parasites and germs in their saliva. When they bite humans in order to extract blood, this diseased saliva mixes with the blood to infect the person. Certain diseases like malaria and yellow fever are more prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries; however, even mosquitoes in temperate climates can infect people with serious and even deadly illnesses like the West Nile virus.

Can Mosquitoes Transmit Ebola?

As the Ebola epidemic ravages West Africa, many people are naturally worried that mosquitoes might transmit this deadly disease. Mosquitoes, however, do not transmit Ebola. The Ebola virus is spread from human to human via bodily fluids. Alternatively, mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and various forms of encephalitis.

Why Can’t Mosquito Populations Be Controlled?

Many cities and communities routinely spray for mosquitoes to try to reduce their numbers. However, eliminating this pest appears to be quite impossible. Female mosquitoes (the culprits responsible for biting humans), will produce between 1,000 and 3,000 mosquitoes during her lifetime. All they require is a bit of standing water to lay their eggs. In developing nations where mosquitoes are prolific, combating the mosquito scourge is especially difficult. Many organizations work to provide mosquito nets to better protect at-risk populations around the world.

When Do Mosquitoes Mature?

It only takes about a week for a mosquito to develop from its egg to maturity. Male mosquitoes feed on plants. Female mosquitoes require a blood meal for breeding purposes. The females are responsible for biting humans and other animals.

Combating Mosquitoes around Your Home

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Mosquitoes will lay their eggs even in very shallow water such as that found in a birdbath or puddles. You can control their population around your home by removing any standing water where they’re likely to lay eggs. You should also eliminate weeds and tall grasses where these insects are likely to teem.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Mosquitoes

It’s a good idea to remain indoors during times mosquitoes are present – in the early morning and late afternoon to early evening. Depending on where you live, mosquitoes may also be bothersome at night. If you plan to be outside during these times, you can wear mosquito repellent. While repellents can substantially help reduce the risk for bites, they may not protect you or your family entirely.

Dealing with Mosquito Bites

If you get bit by a mosquito, you should wash the bite area with soap and water before applying rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will sanitize the area and help reduce the itch. Bites are typically marked by a whitish-pinking raised or puffy bump. In a day or two, the bump changes to a hard red bump. If the itching persists, you can try an over-the-counter lotion or cream that may help reduce the itching.

Mosquitoes are a definite nuisance, but their bites can be a serious risk if they are known to carry diseases in your area. By eliminating their breeding sites, you can dramatically reduce their numbers around your home.