The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has calculated which animal is the deadliest to humans. And no, it’s not lions, tigers, sharks or crocodiles that lead this statistic. Creatures much more inconspicuous than these predators cause the death of between 500,000 and over a million people a year worldwide.
Our biggest killer is the mosquito. Although it may not seem so dangerous in itself, it is a reservoir of dangerous pathogens, such as the virus that causes malaria.
Malaria is caused by parasitic single-celled organisms of the genus Plasmodiumtransmitted from person to person by family mosquitoes Anopheles. In North America and Europe, the disease is relatively rare, but in parts of Africa, southern Asia and South America, it is very common.
It is generally treatable, but for high-risk groups – small children, pregnant women and chronically ill people with diseases associated with immunodeficiency – the effects of malaria can be tragic. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2021, it caused the death of about 619,000 people worldwide, 80 percent of whom were children under the age of 5.
>>> Read more: One child dies every two minutes from the disease
Mosquitoes also carry pathogens of other dangerous diseases, including dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, zika and parasites that cause lymphatic filariasis.
Why do mosquitoes hurt us so easily?
Why are insects so effective in this deadly work?
First of all – female mosquitoes feed on blood, which makes it very easy to transfer pathogens from one person’s bloodstream to another. Further, they are quite small and winged creatures, which means that they can be unnoticed and move quickly. In addition, we share an ecosystem and resources with them, as mosquitoes need water to breed, and humans settle and live near water because they cannot live without it.
“We can’t fully separate ourselves from the habitat they (mosquitoes) need,” said Shannon LaDeau, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
How to reduce the risk?
There are ways to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases. Even small changes can make a big difference. Even well-known mosquito nets can be effective, LaDeau said. Also special screens or nets in the windows will make it difficult for mosquitoes to access our homes. A properly designed installation can keep water in a closed circuit, without creating open tanks that attract insects.
However, all efforts may prove insufficient due to the expansion of the mosquito range. The more our planet warms, the more the boundaries of mosquito habitats shift.
Mosquitoes, and what else?
Mosquitoes occupy the first place in the ranking of the most deadly animals for humans, but we must also mention other species that are extremely dangerous for us. For example, snakes kill 81,000 to 138,000 people a year, and rabies-infected dogs kill 59,000 people a year.
The WHO also drew attention to animals such as freshwater snails and bed bugs that spread potentially fatal diseases for our species. Thousands of people die each year from schistosomiasis and Chagas disease.
But really, only one creature can compete with the mosquito for the title of the most dangerous to humans. He’s a man. According to a United Nations (UN) report, more than half a million people were killed in 2017 by homicides and armed conflicts.
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