Mosquitoes

We all know these pesky blood-eating pests. Chances are you have already been bitten at least once this year, unless you live in Antarctica (the only continent where mosquitoes don't live). Besides the uncomfortable itch from the mosquito bite, there is a chance that the mosquito will also pass on some extremely harmful human diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and filariasis (philariasis), amongst others. That is why some authorities catalog mosquitoes as the most dangerous animals on Earth.

 

 

Did you know?

  • Mosquitoes are members of the Nematocera family (The Nematocera (i.e. thread-horns) are a suborder of elongated flies with thin, segmented antennae and mostly aquatic larvae, consisting also of crane flies, gnats, and midges).
  • There are over 3,500 species of mosquitoes. Many of these species are actually not blood suckers at all, and many of those that are, create a type of pressure in the blood when obtaining it that do not allow diseases to be transmitted.
  • In the bloodsucking species, only the females suck blood.
  • Mosquitoes go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, adult (the one we need to watch out for).
  • Their lifespan is about a week on average.
  • Female mosquitoes hunt their blood host by detecting organic substances such as carbon dioxide and through optical recognition.
  • Mosquitoes are more attracted to sweaty people due to the compounds that make up body odor. So it's not because one's blood is "sweeter" as some of the myths are saying.
  • Anopheles mosquitoes are the only species known to carry malaria. They also transmit filariasis (also called elephantiasis) and encephalitis. Culex mosquitoes carry encephalitis, filariasis, and the West Nile virus. And Aedes mosquitoes, of which the voracious Asian tiger is a member, carry yellow fever, dengue, and encephalitis.
      

Left: Anopheles Mosquito (Source: Wikipedia) | Center: Culex Mosquito (Source: ALCS) | Right: Aedes Mosquito (Source: Wikipedia)

Diseases

As you already know, mosquitoes can act as a carrier for many disease-causing viruses and parasites. For example, dengue fever is the most common in Caribbean, Central America, South Central Asia, eastern equine encephalitis virus is a concern in eastern US, while malaria is a huge concern in Africa and the Western Pacific Region. Malaria is actually said to be one of the biggest killers in the world today, attacking some of our most vulnerable communities and contributing significantly to the untold suffering and sustained poverty of more than forty per cent of the world's population.

 

Disease prevention

Some of these diseases are life threatening and so methods preventing mosquito bites came into being. There are many methods for controlling mosquitoes, but here are some of the most important ones:


Mosquito larva

Source reduction: basically eliminating the breeding places of mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes reproduce in bodies of stagnant water, sometimes drainage, intermittent irrigation and changing the salinity of water are some of the methods used to minimize the sources of mosquitoes. Other times insecticides and herbicides are used, or natural predators, like dragonflies, are introduced in the area. Many types of fish are also known to consume mosquito larvae so having a healthy ecosystem which supports a variety of fish is beneficial to everyone...except the mosquitoes.

Another method of controlling mosquitoes is the one of exclusion. This helps keeping the mosquitoes away from humans without affecting the general ecology of the area. One such method is to apply a mosquito repellent on your skin, which gives you a short time protection against mosquito bites, but might also have side effects as usually the active ingredient can be toxic. Or one can stay indoors and have windows screens and mosquito nets ready as they are one of the most effective preventive measures for residential areas.

Rotary distributing mosquito treated nets to help prevent against malaria

 

Mosquito nets


Mosquitoe Nets

Insecticide-treated mosquito nets are particularly effective because they selectively kill those insects that attack humans, but a simple mosquito net would do the trick as well.

There are several Rotary clubs which participated in mosquito net projects. For example, to name a few:

  • The Rotary Club of Krakeroy, Norway, teamed up with the Rotary Club of Machakos, Kenya, in 2004 to distribute 3,000 mosquito nets to children under five and pregnant women in a slum of Machakos, Kenya. Its initial success made them collaborate again in 2008 to hand out 5,000 nets.
  • The Rotary Club of Red Deer Sunrise, Alberta, Canada partnered up with the Rotary club of Iganga, Uganda to provide 1,400 of these insecticide-treated mosquito nets (enough for everyone living in the local Buntaba village).
  • In 2010, Rotary Club International has donated about 10,000 long lasting mosquitotreated nets to Western Regional Health Directorate, Ghana, for free distribution to communities.
  • In 2012, one anti-malaria initiative put together by the Chife Foundation and implemented in partnership with High Noon Rotary Club Colorado, USA distributed more than 2,000 nets in the nearby villages of Anam City, Nigeria.
  • Other smaller, but very helpful initiatives were started in 2013 by the Rotary Club Zuerich au Lac by providing the Rotary Club Jomtien-Pattaya with funding to purchase and distribute mosquito nets in the Phop Phra, Thailand.

Rotary Club Jomtien-Pattaya distributing nets and blankets

  • Closer to home, IPP Dick and President Amanda (at that time President of the Rotary Club of Demerara) collaborated back in 1998 on a mosquito net project in Guyana which is still ongoing today. For more information on this trip, please revisit "Mission to Guyana" - our program of August 10, 2012.

Back in the day – IPP Dick, Rtn. PP Patrick DeGroot (Demerara), Pres. Amanda, Rtn. PP Marcel Gaskin (Demerara), Rtn. PP Lloyd Validum (Rotary Club of Georgetown) - in 1998

 

If you are interesting in helping out with similar projects, you can lend your support toRotarians Eliminating Malaria or one of the several Rotarians Against Malaria regional groups.

By the way, mosquito nets can also be found as part of the ShelterBox contents, where necessary (you can read more about ShelterBox in this Makeup meeting).

 

The patch

These mosquito nets are definitely helpful, but they are usually designed to be stationary, meaning they're usually designed to cover a bed, not to wear while you're outside playing or working.


Photo credit: Indiegogo

This is where this new patch alternative comes in. The Kite Patch is a 2-by-2-inch adhesive square that makes people virtually undetectable by mosquitoes for up to 48 hours. The patch, which sticks to your clothing, uses non-toxic compounds that block mosquitoes' ability to detect carbon dioxide, the primary way they sniff out human prey.

The technology was developed by Olfactor Laboratories and the University of California at Riverside, with backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Olfactor Laboratories recently had a successful fundraising campaign in order to receive enough funding to send approximately 20,000 patches to be field tested in malaria-ridden Uganda. It reached its fundraising goal in only 4 days so a new year-long campaign started from which the money raised will be used test the patches in Uganda and then develop them for global distribution.

If you want to be an individual backer you can, for instance, choose to invest $10 to donate a pack of five patches to a family in Uganda or $35 to both donate 10 patches and receive 10 patches for yourself.

 

Here a short video about the Kite Patch and how it works.

Kite Patch: 3:49 min

 

Either way, mosquitoes are creating a bit of a problem for humans and it would be great if at least their disease spreading effect will be under control and not an issue anymore in the near future.

 
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