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Blood sucking mosquito: Goats and soda: NPR



This mosquito is more interested in Halloween candy than human blood.

Ben de la Cruz / NPR


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Ben de la Cruz / NPR

This mosquito is more interested in Halloween candy than human blood.

Ben de la Cruz / NPR

Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story published on October 29, 2015.

Say you want to dress up as the scariest animal in the world this Halloween.

No need for teeth, nails or horns.

All you need is a few cleaning tubes, a few Halloween fairy wings, and a few other supplies (see full instructions at the end of this post) to become a mosquito, a creature that is much larger risk to people than usual suspects.

For example, sharks receive a lot of pressure. But they are overrated as murderers. In 2018, the number of deaths from shark attacks was four, a drop from the annual average of 6.

Snakes really devastate: The World Health Organization estimates 81,000 to 138,000 deaths per year from snakes.

But this is nothing compared to mosquitoes. Only one species, Anopheles, is responsible for nearly 600,000 malaria deaths each year, making it by far the most dangerous animal on the planet.

Two other species, Aedes and Culex cause such diseases as Dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile fever.

Aedes Mosquito

Macroscopic Solutions / Flickr


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Aedes Mosquito

Macroscopic Solutions / Flickr

Mosquitoes feed on an infected person or animal and ingest a virus that passes through the blood of a bug and eventually falls into its salivary glands. Then the bug bites, releasing its contagious spit.

Spraying can be effective in removing mosquitoes that congregate in areas where people live. Unfortunately, spraying does not make a dent when it comes to Anopheles.

"They are everywhere and this makes it difficult to control them," says Grayson Brown, executive director of the vector management unit in Puerto Rico. "You can't just spray the city. You'll have to spray the wood everywhere, and that would have a serious environmental impact." Unlike other mosquitoes that buzz around during the day, Anopheles go out at night, feed on sleeping people. In middle-income and affluent countries, people can keep them out of the house with their screen doors and windows tight and air-conditioned. In the developing world, bed nets are the most affordable protection, Brown says.

Mosquitoes are the most deadly of the eight vectors – tiny, blood-sucking factors that transmit disease from person to person or animal to person – listed by the World Health Organization as the most dangerous to humans. Together, these eight bloodsuckers are responsible for one million deaths and 17 percent of infectious diseases a year.

The sand flies cause a particularly nasty disease – leishmaniasis, which infects 1.3 million people a year and kills 30,000. It occurs in parts of America, Southeast Asia, West Asia, East Africa and parts of the Mediterranean region. A form of the disease, common in Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, can lead to partial or complete destruction of the nose, mouth and throat.

Mites are a growing problem, causing a variety of serious febrile illnesses, including Lyme disease, which started northeast in the US and moved to other pockets in the country. Lyme disease now affects 7.9 people per 100,000 in the United States, and has also spread to parts of Asia and Europe. It can be successfully treated if diagnosed early. Untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and central nervous system. Mites also cause another disease – the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, which kills about 40 percent of the infected people, most of them in Africa, the Balkans and Asia.

Ixodes scapularis (Deer ticks)

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Ixodes scapularis (Deer ticks)

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One particularly rude bug has a romantic alias: a kiss. Its correct name is the triatomine glitch. "They are a nightmarish insect," Brown says. "They crawl through the ceilings at night, go down on a person, follow the CO2 trail [carbon dioxide] to the mouth and feed on the mouth," Brown says.

Unless it's bad enough to have a monosynthetic blood sucking parasite on your mouth, a bug kiss adds insult to injury. "It twists and snaps at the eating area." The man wakes up, scratches the bite and becomes infected by the faeces of the bug.

Bugs that catch animal infections are a particular problem in poor, rural areas, especially in Latin America, where people can keep animals in their houses. In most people, the symptoms are mild, including headaches, muscle aches and fever. But up to 30 percent of patients suffer heart problems, which years after the infection can lead to sudden death from cardiac muscle breakdown.

Tsetse flies infect humans and cattle, transmit the disease during sleep and transmit the disease back and forth between species, especially in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Not only do they cause human disease, but the economic impact of the disease in cattle can be devastating, says Brown.

Fleas ride on the backs of rats, prairie dogs, and other rodents that carry plague and transmit disease when they suck people's blood. In addition to threatening poor populations living close to rats, they are a problem for Siberian rabbits, Brown says.

Black flies carry river blindness, a disease that causes itching, rashes and eye diseases, which can lead to permanent blindness. According to the WHO, about 20 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, were treated for the infection in 2017. The Carter Center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter and Rosaline Carter, has been working with governments in a number of African and Latin American countries to eliminate of the disease. The Center and other international groups support efforts to disperse black flies and provide antiparasitic treatment to infected people.

Not all of the first eight vectors are bugs. Some aquatic freshwater snails carry parasitic worms that can spread a disease called schistosomiasis. Approximately 220 million people a year are infected with the disease through exposure to fresh water contaminated with worms. If the victim is left untreated, the infection can lead to anemia in children and over time can damage the liver, intestines, lungs and bladder. Pair of male and female parasites Schistosome .

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But no animal, tiny or large, can be compared to mosquitoes.

"Mosquitoes are responsible for killing 2,000 people a day," Brown says. "More people die in one hour than all shark attacks in a whole year. What other animals do such harm?"

How To Dress Like a Mosquito for Halloween

In less than an hour we made a mosquito costume using drugstore supplies. A pair of large sunglasses stand for eyes with large bugs. Two tube cleaners attached to the headband are the antennas. We bought pre-made fairy wings for Halloween and then spray painted them in black. For the mosquito beak, we rolled a piece of black paper 2 feet by 3 feet and used an elastic thread to attach it to the head. The final touch: a large-size sweater – red for all the blood that this mosquito is drinking – with skin patterns created from a black electrical strip. We hope you don't get sunk!


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