Mosquitos are irritating, but in the Philippines they are more than just an annoyance. Certain types of mosquitos are not only to blame for those itchy bites, but they are also responsible for some serious diseases.
The best way to avoid these health problems is to avoid mosquito bites to begin with, so proper personal mosquito protection is important. Read on to learn about the dangers presented by mosquito bites in the Philippines, and how to prevent mosquito bites from occurring in your home.
What are the dangers of mosquito bites?
Mosquito bites themselves, apart from being itchy and sore, are usually not a serious health problem. However, some types of mosquitos carry infections and diseases that can be very dangerous.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease usually acquired through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms like headache, fever, chills and vomiting become apparent usually 10 to 15 days after the infective mosquito bite has occurred, and the complications can be life threatening.
The good news is that malaria is on the decline in the Philippines – between 2005 and 2013 there was an 83% reduction in cases, and many previously endemic provinces are now being declared Malaria-free, largely thanks to mosquito control. However, during rainy season in rural mountainous or coastal areas the disease is still a risk, particularly for children under five, the elderly and pregnant women.
Dengue fever and chikungunya virus
Dengue fever and chikungunya are viral infections carried by some female mosquitos. The two share some clinical signs, with both causing flu-like symptoms including headaches, muscle pain and nausea. However, dengue is characterized by persistent red spots on the face and body, while chikungunya causes incapacitating joint pain.
Due to mosquito control measures adopted by the government, dengue fever is on the decline – there were 44.5% less cases reported in 2014 compared to 2013. Unfortunately, there has been an increase of chikungunya cases in recent years which suggests further precautions are needed.
Zika virus is a flavivirus transmitted by Aedes mosquito bites. Its more minor symptoms include headache, conjunctivitis, skin rash and a mild fever, but it can trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome and brain abnormalities like microcephaly if a pregnant woman is infected. The virus is currently endemic in the Philippines, with most cases reported in Iloilo City.
If symptoms persist in yourself or a family member, seek medical care and advice immediately. Those with suspected Zika virus should undergo diagnostic testing, drink lots of fluids, and get plenty of rest.
How to prevent mosquito bites
Although cases of most mosquito-borne infections and diseases are on the decline in the Philippines, thanks to government mosquito control measures, personal mosquito protection is still extremely important to ensure the safety of you and your family.
The best infection prevention is to avoid mosquitos in the first place, so follow these steps to free your family of mosquito bites.
- Windows and doors should be kept closed, or insect screens should be used, particularly during the rainy season at dawn, dusk and during the night. Mosquitos are less of a threat during the heat of the day.
- Use mosquito nets around beds to prevent mosquito bites while you are sleeping.
- Use mosquito repellents and wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants or permethrin-treated clothing, especially when you are outdoors in the morning or evening.
- Anything that holds water, like drums, pails or waste containers, should be covered at all times. Anything that can acquire pools of water, like planters, toys, jars, cans, vases, bottles buckets or containers, should be scrubbed weekly, covered or thrown out to prevent mosquitos from breeding.
- Keep gutters clean and pierce old tires if they are being used as roof supports to avoid water pooling.
- Regularly clean and remove water from dish racks, soap trays and any other household items where pools can form.
- Make sure any holes or gaps in walls or around windows are filled, sealed or covered.
Taking these simple mosquito protection measures will help to keep you and your family safe from mosquito bites and mosquito-borne infections.