Mosquitoes are still more deadly than Coronavirus.2020 has been a year dominated by news of the global Coronavirus pandemic. As we’ve watched infection rates soar and death tolls climb, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there are other things out there just as deadly - if not more so - than the Covid-19 virus.
Mosquitoes are STILL the world’s deadliest killers.
But what makes them so dangerous? Despite their innocuous-sounding name—Spanish for “little fly”—they carry numerous devastating diseases. The worst is Malaria. Malaria kills 1100 people every day and annually incapacitates another 200 million people for days at a time, but it’s not the only mosquito-borne disease. Over recent decades many other mosquito-borne diseases have emerged - or resurfaced - and spread rapidly, such as Zika, Dengue fever, West Nile fever and Chikungunya.
Which is why on August 20th we celebrate World Mosquito Day.
World Mosquito day celebrates the landmark discovery in 1897 by British doctor Sir Ronald Ross that it is the female Anopheles mosquitoes which transmit Malaria. This finding provided the foundation for scientists across the world to better understand the deadly role of mosquitoes in disease transmission.
Many mosquito-borne and transmitted diseases have no specific treatment and the limited treatments that are available are facing the issue of drug resistance. Insecticides commonly used to control mosquitoes are also facing resistance. To mark World Mosquito Day 2018, we took a look at some of the up and coming scientific discoveries and cutting-edge research into combating Malaria. You can read all about those here.
So even as COVID-19 spreads, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that mosquitoes still pose the biggest threat of illness and death on the planet. Bill Gates, in his blog - GatesNotes - declared this week “Mosquito week” and shared this video as a stark reminder of the fact that “of all the illnesses mosquitoes spread, malaria is the worst by far. More than 200 million people suffer from it every year, and a child dies from malaria every other minute of every day. If you survive, it can leave you vulnerable to other debilitating diseases and chronic anaemia.”
Closer to home, an article in Health24 on Tuesday warned that the Covid-19 pandemic is not only “directly destroying many lives, it's also systematically erasing years of progress made in the fight against other communicable diseases – specifically tuberculosis, malaria and HIV.”
This is due to the fact that disruptions to the distribution of medication, the halting of prevention programmes (such as the roll out of bed-netting) and a fear of seeking medical care due to the pandemic have all severely impacted many African countries' – including South Africa's – ability to sustain the fight against mosquitoes.
According to an April 2020 modelling analysis by the WHO, 26 out of 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are due for an insecticide-treated nets campaign in 2020. If these programmes aren't implemented this year, malaria cases and deaths will increase by up to 10% even if proper treatment is maintained at current levels. But if treatment is disrupted by 75% across the continent, the analysis predicts that by the end of the year there could be an estimated 769 000 malaria deaths, the majority of which would be children under the age of five.
This is twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018, and would represent a return to malaria mortality levels last seen in the year 2000 - undoing 20 years of progress. In South Africa, this scenario would result in a 100 - 150% increase in malaria deaths.
According to Professor Tiaan de Jager, Dean of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria and Director of The Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control, we are already seeing an increase in Malaria cases and deaths in 2020 compared to last year.
"Malaria annually affects millions of people, and puts strain on the poor health care infrastructure in especially sub-Saharan Africa," says De Jager. "The Covid-19 pandemic is contributing to the strain. WHO has requested that malaria-endemic countries do not scale back on any planned malaria prevention, diagnostic and treatment activities. These activities help manage the strain on the healthcare systems."
De Jager urges everyone in high-risk areas to be vigilant when it comes to mosquito bites, especially because Covid-19 and Malaria have similar symptoms. "Malaria is both preventable and treatable, and prevention is better than cure. Most important is to seek medical diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible if you think you may have contracted malaria," adds De Jager.
If you are worried that you may have mosquitoes at work or at home, contact Rentokil for a free survey. Let the experts ensure that you and your family are safe from the dangers of mosquito-borne illnesses. Download our free Mosquito infographic for more information on this deadly pest.