How Do Mosquitoes Transmit Disease?

The Spread of Infectious Disease 

In technical terms, mosquitoes are vectors of infectious diseases. This means that when they bite an infected person, drawing blood from their body, they become infected with the disease. The disease doesn’t affect the insect, but it becomes a carrier. When a mosquito bites, it sucks blood and secretes saliva. This saliva enters the blood, causing an exchange of fluids between the insect and your bloodstream. When the mosquito bites another person, it transmits the disease by making direct contact with their bloodstream. 

Mosquitoes do what is called sip feeding. When the mosquito sip feeds, it doesn’t suck all of the blood it needs from one source. Instead, it “sips”, taking small amounts of blood from multiple sources. Of course this exposes more people to infection, which is why infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes can get out of control so quickly. One bug may infect any number of people during one afternoon backyard BBQ.  

Only female mosquitoes are bloodsuckers. Mosquitoes bite and suck blood for reproduction. Male mosquitoes only eat flower nectar, but female mosquitoes eat both flower nectar and blood. The females need the protein in blood to develop eggs.

Mosquitoes transmit many types of infectious diseases worldwide, but the three most common – and concerning – are West Nile, Zika, and Malaria. 

Malaria is a threat in tropical and subtropical areas, but it’s not a threat in places like Oklahoma because the types of mosquitoes that carry malaria can’t survive in our environment. However, West Nile and Zika have spread into North America and are a concern for Oklahoma residents. 

How To Prevent the Spread of Mosquito-Born Diseases 

Mosquitoes have always been a nuisance and an irritant, so people have long been motivated to eliminate them. 

However, the total eradication of mosquitoes isn’t feasible. Like it or not, insects like mosquitoes are part of the ecosystem. To completely eradicate them would mean disrupting the overall health of our own ecosystem. 

The first step to take has to do with your person. During mosquito season, wear dark clothes that cover your skin, particularly in natural areas where bugs are thick. 

Use repellants. Commercial repellents with DEET are most effective. You can also combine them with natural mosquito repellents

To protect your property, you want to eliminate areas where mosquitoes can reproduce. Remember that it’s only the females that transmit disease, and the reason they suck blood is to obtain protein to develop their eggs. In other words, mosquito bites are directly related to their reproduction. 

Mosquitoes reproduce in damp, dark areas with still water. Mosquitoes will lay hundreds of eggs in something as small as a soda can. Disrupt all the places on your property larvae can gestate, such as:

  • Garbage cans that hold water
  • Birdbaths or pet water dishes with old water
  • Clogged rain gutters or leaky outdoor plumbing
  • Grass or yard waste
  • Clogged storm drainage areas
  • Rain barrels (cover with a screen)
  • Boats or watercraft stored outside
  • Tire swings, playground equipment, or any stationary object that holds water

We also recommend looking into OKC Mosquito Militia’s Integrated Pest Management program. This is an environmentally responsible, low-impact program that lowers the threat of mosquito-transmitted illnesses by targeting breeding areas. Our services keep them from reproducing, which not only lowers the overall mosquito population but addresses the reason they bite people in the first place. 

Do Mosquitoes Spread Coronavirus?  

As of this writing in early 2020, the spread of coronavirus is in the news. You might wonder if mosquitoes can spread this type of virus. 

At this time, there is no evidence that mosquitoes spread the coronavirus. This is because coronavirus doesn’t spread through insect vectors that transmit disease through the bloodstream. 

Coronavirus, on the other hand, is the type of virus that spreads person-to-person. This occurs mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and common colds are spread.

Of course, that’s not really good news because person-to-person infections spread even more easily than through insect vectors, but it does mean that you don’t have to worry about getting this virus through a mosquito bite. 

As you know, most mosquito bites are little more than an irritant. In the past, seasoned fishermen in places like Lake Texoma would all but invite a mosquito bite. At least it feels good to scratch, they’d quip.  

Today, mosquito bites are no joke. If you do get bit, chances are you won’t contract a disease like Zika or West Nile. But the consequences if you do get bit by an infected mosquito are serious. 

At OKC Mosquito Militia, we take this threat seriously. Just one little bite from the wrong bug can change a life. With the right mosquito control procedures, we can significantly reduce that risk.