Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite. You get it when an infected mosquito bites you. Malaria is a major cause of death worldwide, but it is almost wiped out in the United States. The disease is mostly a problem in developing countries with warm climates. If you travel to these countries, you are at risk. There are four different types of malaria caused by four related parasites. The most deadly type occurs in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
Malaria symptoms include chills, flu-like symptoms, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. A blood test can diagnose it. It can be life-threatening. However, you can treat malaria with drugs. The type of drug depends on which kind of malaria you have and where you were infected.
Malaria can be prevented. When traveling to areas where malaria is found:
- See your doctor for medicines that protect you
- Wear insect repellent with DEET
- Cover up
- Sleep under mosquito netting
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Meningococci are a type of bacteria that cause serious infections. The most common infection is meningitis, which is an inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Meningococci can also cause other problems, including a serious bloodstream infection called sepsis.
Meningococcal infections can spread from person to person. Risk factors include:
- Age - it is more common in infants, teens, and young adults
- Living in close quarters, such as in college dorms or military settings
- Certain medical conditions, such as not having a spleen
- Travel to areas where meningococcal disease is common
In its early stages, you may have flu-like symptoms and a stiff neck. But the disease can progress quickly and can be fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment are extremely important. Lab tests on your blood and cerebrospinal fluid can tell if you have it. Treatment is with antibiotics. Since the infection spreads from person to person, family members may also need to be treated.
A vaccine can prevent meningococcal infections.
Mosquitoes are insects that live all over the world. There are thousands of different species of mosquitoes; about 200 of those live in the United States.
Female mosquitoes bite animals and humans and drink a very small amount of their blood. They need protein and iron from blood to produce eggs. After drinking blood, they find some standing water and lay their eggs in it. The eggs hatch into larvae, then pupae, and then they become adult mosquitos. The males live for about a week to ten days, and the females can live up to several weeks. Some female mosquitoes can hibernate in the winter, and they can live for months.
What health problems can mosquito bites cause?
Most mosquito bites are harmless, but there are times when they can be dangerous. The ways that mosquito bites can affect humans include:
- Causing itchy bumps, as an immune system response to the mosquito's saliva. This is the most common reaction. The bumps usually go away after a day or two.
- Causing allergic reactions, including blisters, large hives, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that affects the whole body. It is a medical emergency.
- Spreading diseases to humans. Some of these diseases can be serious. Many of them do not have any treatments, and only a few have vaccines to prevent them. These diseases are more of a problem in Africa and other tropical areas of the world, but more of them are spreading to the United States. One factor is climate change, which makes the conditions in some parts of the United States more favorable to certain types of mosquitoes. Other reasons include increased trade with, and travel to, tropical and subtropical areas.
Which diseases can mosquitoes spread?
Common diseases spread by mosquitoes include:
- Chikungunya, a viral infection that causes symptoms such as fever and severe joint pain. The symptoms usually last about a week, but for some, the joint pain may last for months. Most cases of chikungunya in the United States are in people who traveled to other countries. There have been a few cases where it has spread in the United States.
- Dengue, a viral infection that causes a high fever, headaches, joint and muscle pain, vomiting, and a rash. Most people get better within a few weeks. In some cases, it can become very severe, even life-threatening. Dengue is rare in the United States.
- Malaria, a parasitic disease that causes serious symptoms such as high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. It can be life-threatening, but there are drugs to treat it. Malaria is a major health problem in many tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Almost all cases of malaria in the United States are in people who traveled to other countries.
- West Nile Virus (WNV), a viral infection that often has no symptoms. In those that do have symptoms, they are usually mild, and include fever, headache, and nausea. In rare cases, the virus can enter the brain, and it can be life-threatening. WNV has spread across the continental United States.
- Zika Virus, a viral infection that often does not cause symptoms. One in five infected people do get symptoms, which are usually mild. They include a fever, rash, joint pain, and pink eye. Besides being spread by mosquitoes, Zika can spread from mother to baby during pregnancy and cause serious birth defects. It can also spread from one partner to another during sex. There have been a few outbreaks of Zika in the southern United States.
Can mosquito bites be prevented?
- Use an insect repellent when you go outdoors. Choose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. They are evaluated to make sure they are safe and effective. Make sure that the repellant has one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. It is important to follow the instructions on the label.
- Cover up. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin fabric, so spray thin clothes with an EPA-registered repellent like permethrin. Don't apply permethrin directly to skin.
- Mosquito-proof your home. Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. Use air conditioning if you have it.
- Get rid of mosquito breeding sites. Regularly empty standing water from your house and yard. The water could be in flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, or birdbaths.
- If you plan to travel, get information about the areas you will be going to. Find out whether there is a risk of diseases from mosquitoes, and if so, whether there is a vaccine or medicine to prevent those diseases. See a health care provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip.
What is mpox?
Mpox, which used to be called monkeypox, is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. The mpox virus is in the same family of viruses as the smallpox virus. But mpox is less contagious than smallpox. And its disease causes milder symptoms and is usually not fatal.
In the past, most of the people who got mpox lived in certain parts of central and western Africa, had traveled there, or had been exposed to infected animals imported from there. During the recent outbreak, the disease has been found in people who live in other countries, including the United States.
How does mpox spread?
Mpox spreads in different ways:
- Through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus:
- Through direct contact with their rash, scabs, or body fluids.
- By breathing in the virus during prolonged, face-to-face contact.
- During intimate physical contact such as kissing, cuddling, hugging, massage or sex.
- During pregnancy, from the pregnant person to the baby.
- From touching items (such as clothes, bedding, or towels) that were used by someone who has the virus. The risk of getting mpox this way is low.
- From infected animals:
- By being scratched or bitten by the animal.
- By preparing or eating meat or using products from the animal.
Someone who has mpox can spread it from the time their symptoms start until their rash has fully healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This usually takes 2-4 weeks.
Researchers have found that some people can spread mpox to others from 1 to 4 days before their symptoms appear. It is not known how often this happens.
What are the symptoms of mpox?
The symptoms of mpox usually start within 3 weeks from the time you were exposed to the virus. The symptoms may include:
- A rash with sores that can look like pimples or blisters. It could be on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. It goes through different stages, including scabs, before healing. This can take 2-4 weeks.
- Swollen lymph nodes ("swollen glands").
- Muscle aches and backache.
- Respiratory symptoms, such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough.
You may have all or only a few symptoms:
- You may get a rash first, followed by other symptoms
- You may have flu-like symptoms and then develop a rash 1-4 days later
- You may only get a rash
How is mpox diagnosed?
To find out if you have mpox, your provider:
- Will ask about your symptoms and health history.
- Will look at your rash.
- Will take a sample of tissue from one of the sores so it can be tested for mpox virus.
- May do blood tests to check for mpox virus or for antibodies to the virus. Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to fight foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria.
What are the treatments for mpox?
There are no treatments specifically for mpox, but many people get better on their own.
Since mpox and smallpox are similar, antiviral medicines that protect against smallpox may also help treat mpox. Antiviral medicines may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, such as patients who have weakened immune systems.
Can mpox be prevented?
There are steps you can take to help prevent mpox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with the mpox rash. So, while a person is sick with mpox:
- Do not touch their rash or scabs.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with them.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with them.
- Do not touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person who has mpox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with sick people.
- In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread mpox virus, such as rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as any bedding or other materials they have touched.
If you are sick with mpox it is recommended that you stay home while you are sick, if possible. If you have an active rash or other symptoms, it would be best to stay in a separate room from your family members and pets if you can.
The U.S. government has two vaccines in the U.S. to protect against mpox. One was approved for smallpox and mpox (JYNNEOS), and the other was approved for smallpox (ACAM2000):
- JYNNEOS is the preferred vaccine to protect against mpox. It is a two-dose vaccine.
- ACAM2000 may be an alternative to JYNNEOS. ACAM2000 is a single-dose vaccine. But it has the potential for more side effects and adverse events than JYNNEOS. And it is not recommended for people who are pregnant, are under 12 months old, have severely weakened immune systems, or have certain medical conditions.
The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to mpox or who are more likely to get mpox.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It causes a staph infection (pronounced "staff infection") that is resistant to several common antibiotics. There are two types of infection. Hospital-associated MRSA happens to people in health care settings. Community-associated MRSA happens to people who have close skin-to-skin contact with others, such as athletes involved in football and wrestling.
Infection control is key to stopping MRSA in hospitals. To prevent community-associated MRSA:
- Practice good hygiene
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed
- Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages
- Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razors, or clothes
- Wash soiled sheets, towels, and clothes in hot water with bleach and dry in a hot dryer
If a wound appears to be infected, see a health care provider. Treatments may include draining the infection and antibiotics.