2020: It’s been a year, huh? It seems like we have challenges coming at us from all directions. With so much going on – including insects with terrifying names like “murder hornets” – it can be difficult to keep up with the news.
Now, over the past couple months, residents of multiple regions across the United States have been warned of yet another potential scare. Cases of mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have popped up in almost all 50 states.
So, is it time to panic … again? To help you follow along, the Bug Bite Thing team gathered the news, reviewed the data and recapped what this means for you.
Fall Mosquito News and How it Affects You
Here at Bug Bite Thing, we already know mosquitoes feel like our own personal predators, so it comes as no surprise that they can carry diseases as well. Thankfully, in the United States, these illnesses are usually not a large threat to the majority of the population. Most people bitten by infected mosquitoes do not experience symptoms. It’s important to take them seriously, but not to panic over scary headlines related to WNV and EEE.
Here’s the breakdown:
EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States. It is fatal for nearly 30 percent of those who contract it and many of those who survive it continue to battle neurological problems. The illness can affect any age group, though those older than 50 years of age and younger than 15 have the highest risk.
That being said, transmission to humans is rare and EEE does not spread between humans. In 2019, our country saw the highest number of cases in more than a decade, with 38. The state of Michigan accounted for more than a quarter of the cases. As of Oct. 6, 2020, however, there were only nine cases of EEE here in the U.S., which occurred in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.
WNV is also rare and only contracted by mosquitoes, but is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the nation. The country is experiencing a higher transmission in WNV than EEE this year, which is typical. As of Oct. 6, 2020, there were 279 cases in humans throughout the U.S. Approximately a quarter of those cases were non-neuroinvasive. Individuals age 50 years and older should be the most cautious.
In addition to EEE and WNV, there are other risks to be aware of this year. While not yet considered a danger, the invasive Aedes mosquito has been spotted in and around Ventura County, California this fall. Noticeable due to the white stripes on its back and legs, this non-native mosquito is capable of transmitting diseases such as Zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunyaand. They usually choose birds and other small animals as hosts, but they are attracted to the indoors and are not turned off by humans. This mosquito is quite aggressive during the day, so if you are in Southern California, keep an eye out and report any sightings.
Now back to those murder hornets … should you be worried about getting stung? The short answer is no. There are reports of six of these Asian giant hornets in Washington since Sept. 21 and entomologists are working to find their nests before they enter their “slaughter phase.” This sounds frightening, but it is worse for bees than humans. The biggest threat of these hornets is not usually their sting, but rather their attacks on honeybee hives and ultimately, pollination.
Hope for Fewer Mosquitoes this Autumn
After all that, let’s take a deep breath. There is good news for certain parts of the country! Dryer summer conditions may have helped our friends in the Northeast. The weather left less standing water available for mosquito breeding. Several New England states reported fewer mosquitoes this year, which leads experts to anticipate a reduction in insect-borne illnesses. These states also reported similar drops in tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis. A rainy fall season could change this, but it’s unlikely.
South Florida is not as lucky, as Miami-Dade County was under a mosquito-borne illness alert due to WNV at the end of the summer. Thought to be caused by downpours after a long, dry spring, experts are cautious, but confident due to a considerable increase in budget and personnel that allows them more control over the mosquito population.
Although fewer bugs may be biting this year, it’s always good to play it safe. To better protect yourself from these diseases, limit your after-dusk outings in more exposed areas and follow our top mosquito prevention tips.
If you get bit anyway, use the Bug Bite Thing as soon as possible to relieve the itching and swelling. From there, if you develop a high fever, confusion, severe headache, stiff neck, your eyes become sensitive to light, or if you experience any other concerning symptoms, contact your physician immediately. Though our suction tool relieves the effects of mosquito saliva, it is not intended for medical use as a cure against serious diseases.
What have you witnessed this summer and fall? Do you feel like there are fewer mosquitoes? Share your experiences in the comments to keep us all apprised of what’s going on in your area!