If someone asks you, “What’s the most dangerous animal in the world?” You’d probably think of sharks, with their predatory instincts and teeth that can break bones and eat humans.
Shark attacks do happen, but the numbers have been declining over the past years. According to the recent data, these animals killed only two people in 2019. The usual average in the previous years was four. Meanwhile, about 60 unprovoked shark attacks globally—a huge difference from 82, according to USA Today.
In fact, humans are likely to kill more sharks than the other way around. Shark fin trading and poor fishing practices are now linked to a whopping 100 million shark deaths a year.
So what’s the most dangerous animal then? Their sizes are the complete opposite of that of the sharks: the mosquitoes.
What Makes Mosquitoes Deadly?
Mosquitoes are probably some of the oldest insects in the world. Their lineage is so ancient that scientists actually use these animals, often buried in amber, to determine the DNA of the dinosaur. This also means that they’ve been spreading disease for a long time.
Mosquitoes are well-known to be vectors or carriers of pathogens, such as parasites and viruses, although to be more specific, this unfortunate role belongs to the females.
Not many people know that these insects usually get their food from nectar or other plant juices since they are rich in sugar. Like in humans, this component provides them energy.
However, female mosquitoes will also get pregnant. To maintain the health of their eggs, they need more than sugar: they should also look for protein. Human blood contains a lot of it, thanks to the abundance of iron.
This explains why female mosquitoes bite. The problem is by doing so, they are also spreading infection. For example, in both malaria and dengue fever, mosquitoes can consume the pathogens that can cause these conditions along with the blood.
When they bite another person, they can suck the blood and leave harmful microorganisms circulating in the bloodstream.
And mosquitoes are so effective in what they do that they also contribute to cases of Chikungunya, yellow fever, Zika, and West Nile fever, among others.
Rates of Infection and Death
Can people survive from a mosquito-borne disease? The answer is yes, especially over the last few decades when science, particularly medicine, improved a lot. Doctors can now treat malaria with specific antibiotics and provide adequate healthcare support to those who develop dengue fever.
However, it wasn’t the case many years ago. In the 1920s, the United States registered nearly 400 cases per 100,000 people. It only dropped significantly until it was eliminated when the country officially launched the CDC.
In other parts of the world, though, especially in developing nations and sub-Saharan Africa, malaria alone is already responsible for at least a million deaths a year, according to Medscape. The UK, meanwhile, reported fifteen deaths in 2019, a huge increase from six deaths over the last 10 years.
In some cases, the mosquito-borne disease can become worse. Dengue fever, for example, can lead to hemorrhagic fever or shock, which makes it life-threatening.
How to Better Protect Oneself
In developed countries like the UK, most of the cases of malaria and dengue affect international travelers. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the population is safe.
One needs to remember how mosquitoes bite and spread disease. It takes only a single bite on an infected person and a healthy one to have a mosquito infection outbreak.
Fortunately, people can become proactive to protect themselves and even prevent these mosquitoes from biting. Perhaps one of the novel options is a yellow fever mosquito attractant.
How does this work? Mosquitoes hunt in different ways, one of which is following scents. This attractant works like a lure by mimicking the same odor humans emit. This way, they don’t end up biting the person.
Mosquito control also involves reducing or eliminating the babies. These insects can lay hundreds of eggs at any given time, which can transform into adults in a matter of days.
One can avoid making their home a haven for mosquitoes by draining stagnant water. Mosquitoes prefer this water quality since flowing water can disrupt the eggs and eventually kill them.
Those who need to travel can consider avoiding countries with high cases. They may also need to bring malaria prevention medication and see their doctor as soon as they return.
Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Mosquitoes look small and easy to kill, but they can be way deadlier than the gigantic sharks of the ocean. Humans should not take them for granted.