Almost everyone in the world has been bitten by a mosquito. Although most kinds of mosquitoes are just nuisance mosquitoes, some kinds of mosquitoes spread viruses that can cause disease. For most viruses spread by mosquitoes, no vaccines or medicines are available. Mosquitoes bite during the day and night, live indoors and outdoors, and search for warm places as temperatures begin to drop. Some will hibernate in enclosed spaces, like garages, sheds, and under (or inside) homes, to survive cold temperatures. Except for the southernmost states in North America, mosquito season starts in the summer and continues into fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Disease epidemics from viruses spread by mosquitoes are happening more often, including the recent Zika (2015-2017) and chikungunya (2013-2014) epidemics. West Nile virus is the most common virus spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. In the United States, people can also get sick from less common viruses spread by mosquitoes, like La Crosse encephalitis or St. Louis encephalitis. From 2004 to 2016, most US cases of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika were reported in US territories.
Protect against mosquito bites:
- Use insect repellent: When used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Use an (EPA)-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus(OLE)
- Cover up: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Keep mosquitoes outside: Use air conditioning or window and door screens. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
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If you’re planning a trip, the CDC suggests you make a check list of everything you’ll need for an enjoyable vacation and use the following resources to help you prepare:
- Learn about destination-specific health risks and recommendations by visiting CDC Travelers’ Health website.
- Pack a travel health kit. Remember to pack insect repellent and use it as directed to prevent mosquito bites.
- See a healthcare provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip.
- Go to the Find a Clinicwebpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
- Do your homework before you travel.
For most viruses spread by mosquitoes, no vaccines or medicines are available. However, vaccines are available for viruses like Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever. Travelers to areas with risk of those viruses should get vaccinated.
- Even if they do not feel sick, travelers should prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after their trip so they do not spread viruses like dengue, Zika, or chikungunya to uninfected mosquitoes.
- If you have been travelling and have symptoms including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and rash, see your healthcare provider immediately and be sure to share your travel history.
For more information about CDC’s work on vector-borne diseases, please visit: cdc.gov.