by Jennifer Bearden  | June 19, 2020

Last week, I was viciously attacked by one of the world’s deadliest and most dangerous creatures. Mosquitoes are very deadly insects.  Well, at least the females are.  Males don’t feed on blood.  Although their bite is really annoying, the mosquito’s deadly reputation comes from the diseases and parasites they transmit.

Mosquitoes can vector parasites and diseases to dogs, birds, horses, humans and more!  In dogs, they spread heartworms which can often be fatal.  In other species, they vector diseases such as dengue, malaria, West Nile virus, chikungunya, zika, Eastern equine encephalitis and many more.

Dogs can be protected by asking your vet about heartworm preventative medications.  If your dog already has heartworms, there are treatment options.  Consult with your vet regarding these options.  An infected mosquito can bite your dog, infecting the dog with microfilaria or heartworm larvae.  The larvae travel to the heart and grow into adults that live and reproduce in the dog.  Infected dogs can be bit by mosquitoes and then spread larvae to other animals.

Horses should be protected from Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), Western equine encephalitis (WEE), and West Nile virus (WNV) by vaccinations.  Talk to your vet about a vaccination schedule.  Most vets recommend vaccinating against EEE and WEE at least twice a year and WNV once a year.  We are already seeing cases of EEE and WNV locally in the panhandle this year.  Normally cases of EEE peak in June and WNV cases peak in September.  Horses are considered a dead-end host for these diseases.  Birds serve as a reservoir for these diseases.  Mosquitoes bite infected birds and then transmit the viruses to horses.

For humans, we are susceptible to several diseases including EEE and WNV.  Like horses, humans are dead-end hosts.  To protect us, there are several mosquito repellent options.  Here is a link to a publication on mosquito repellents:  It lists common repellents and rates the average complete protection time for each.

Another way we protect against mosquito vectored diseases is through our local mosquito control unit.  They perform routine surveillance on mosquito populations and diseases found in the populations.  When populations exceed thresholds, they spray for mosquitoes.  This invaluable service keeps disease carrying mosquitoes at low levels and protects us from these diseases.  Also, we can help by removing standing water from our homes and landscapes.  Standing water serves as breeding sites for mosquitoes.  If you have water features with standing water, you can use a BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) mosquito larvicide.

For more information about mosquitoes or mosquito-borne diseases, you can contact us at (850)689-5850.

The Foundation of the Gator Nation, an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Jennifer Bearden is with the University of Florida IFAS Extension in Okaloosa County.

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