Integrity Service Excellence
USAF -- Public Health Information and Resources
Deployment Medicine Disease Surveillance Epidemiology Force Health Management Food-Borne Illnesses
Hearing Conservation Helminthology Infectious Diseases Medical Entomology Medical Intelligence Occupational Health Parasitology Travelers' Health Tropical Medicine Zoonotic Diseases Disclaimer
Subfamily Anophelinae (Anopheles sp., Bironella sp., Chagasia sp.)
Subfamily Culicinae (Aedes sp., Culex sp., Culiseta sp., Coquillettidia sp., Deinocerites sp.,
Psorophra sp., Mansonia sp., Ochlerotatus sp., Orthpodomyia sp., Wyeomyia sp., Uranotaenia sp.)
Subfamily Toxorhynchitinae (Toxorhynchites sp.)
Mosquitoes (See Species and Photos)
Mosquitoes are blood sucking insects that are responsible for the transmission of many diseases throughout the human and animal populations of the world. There are more than 300 different species of mosquito but only a small number are of major concern. Several important human diseases are transmitted by these insects including Dengue fever, Encephalitis, Viral diseases, Filarial diseases, and Malaria. In addition to being disease vectors, mosquitoes can cause major disruptions, through their persistent biting, to occupational, recreational and social activities.
Mosquitoes belong to the family of flies called Culicidae and are small fragile insects that have six delicate legs and two wings covered in scales. The head of a mosquito is equipped with a projecting proboscis which conceals and protects the long piercing and sucking mouthparts. These biting insects have a complex life cycle; the immature stage is totally aquatic and the adult is terrestrial. The adult female returns to a water habitat for a brief period to lay each batch of eggs. Mosquito species vary in their breeding habits, biting behavior, host preferences and flight range. Most mosquitoes disperse less than two kilometers; some move only a few meters away from their original breeding place, others can fly some 5 or 10 kilometers, and a few species will disperse up to 50 kilometers downwind from the larval habitats.
On average, a female mosquito will live 2-3 weeks, but the male's lifespan is shorter. Within their lifetime both adult male and female will feed on nectar and plant fluids, but it is only the female that will seek a blood meal. The majority of species require this blood meal as a protein source for egg development. Female mosquitoes are attracted to a potential host through a combination of different stimuli that emanate from the host. The stimuli can include carbon dioxide, body odors, air movement or heat. Upon locating a suitable host, the female will probe the skin for a blood capillary then inject a small amount of saliva containing chemicals which prevent the host's blood from clotting. This is often the pathway for potential pathogens such as viruses to enter a host. After engorging on the host's blood the female will find a resting place to digest her meal and develop eggs before flying off to deposit them in a suitable aquatic habitat.
On hatching, the young larvae (wrigglers) feed continuously and grow through four different instars or molts. Larval development is dependent on the availability of food and prevailing conditions, particularly temperature, but generally takes at least one to two weeks. The final larval instar develops into an active comma-shaped pupa (tumbler) from which the adult mosquito emerges about 2 days later to feed, mate and develop eggs for the next generation.
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes include Dengue fever, encephalitis. Dengue is the most important viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes afflicting humans in a world context. Clinical symptoms range from mild fevers, to a severe and potentially life threatening hemorrhagic disease. The major Dengue vector is Aedes aegypti. Malaria in Australia has been endemic, but was declared eradicated from the country in 1981. However, approximately 700-800 cases are imported annually from travelers infected elsewhere.
Sensitivity to mosquito bites varies with individuals, most people have only a mild reaction but others can have severe symptoms from the saliva of mosquitoes. Typical symptoms include swelling, redness and irritation at the puncture site. If the bites are scratched or traumatized, they may become infected with bacteria and a secondary infection can be initiated, especially on the lower limbs. The diagnosis of mosquito-borne diseases including Dengue, can only be confirmed with appropriate blood tests.
Simple measures can be taken by individuals to limit their contact with mosquitoes, Areas that are known to be infested with large numbers of mosquitoes should be avoided. Activities that are scheduled for outdoors, especially around dusk should be limited, as the biting activity of many mosquitoes will peak during this period. Clothing that has long sleeves and long pants should be worn when visiting areas that are infested with mosquitoes. A chemical repellent that contains approx 20% DEET (diethyl toluamide) should be used on exposed areas of skin, but not repeatedly on young children. Windows and doors should be screened; water tanks also, using a small gauge mesh to exclude mosquitoes from these potential breeding sites. Empty all containers throughout the garden that hold water such as pot plant saucers, tires, roof guttering and tins to prevent breeding. Bed nets are an effective barrier against biting insects at home or camping, and can now treated safely with an insecticide. Insecticidal sprays, and coils and electric mats, for use around the house can help in keeping mosquitoes at bay.