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More than just annoying summertime pests, mosquitoes are also responsible for spreading malaria, a disease that kills over half a million people every year. When Ronald Ross discovered that mosquitoes transmit malaria in 1897, he revolutionized our understanding of the disease and led to increased awareness about malaria prevention.
Today, the best way to prevent the disease is to avoid bites by infected mosquitoes. Insecticide-treated nets, preventive treatment for pregnant women and infants, and indoor residual spraying are all ways to reduce transmission, but the prevalence of mosquitoes in hard-hit areas like Sub-Saharan Africa pose a challenge to eradication measures.
History of World Mosquito Day
Mosquitoes, those tiny blood-sucking insects, are responsible for transmitting serious diseases such as malaria. With no vaccine currently available, malaria — an ancient disease that began afflicting humans from the beginning of agriculture and modern civilization — remains a deadly threat to people around the world. Caused by Plasmodium parasites, malaria shows up in historic texts as far back as the first millennium BCE. In fact, the first traces of malaria parasites were found in mosquito remains that are over 30 million years old!
Malaria has affected every continent except Antarctica, and remains a widespread problem in parts of the world including Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Over 200 million people still contract malaria each year. In 2010, 90% of malaria deaths occured in Africa. The World Health Organization reports concerns about drug-resistant malaria, which can hamper efforts to reduce the spread of the disease.
World Mosquito Day honors the date when Sir Ronald Ross, a British army surgeon working in India, proved that mosquitoes transmit malaria by identifying pigmented malaria parasites in mosquitoes that fed on an infected patient. This discovery revolutionized our knowledge of the disease and led to new preventive measures. Ross won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902.
Ross declared the first World Mosquito Day then and there, stating that the world must be made aware of the link between mosquitoes and malaria. Although an improved understanding of the disease has led to more innovative preventive measures and medical treatments, a malaria vaccine remains elusive.
World Mosquito Day timeline
The disease makes its way to Europe, likely traveling down the Nile to the Caribbean and spreading north.
After malaria decimated the population, Rome's Campagna region remained sparsely settled until as late as the 19th century.
Ronald Ross discovers the link between female mosquitoes and malaria transmission, leading to a new understanding of how to track and stop the spread of the disease.
The Appalachian region of the US Southeast was deeply affected by malaria until the Tennessee Valley Authority brought power, water, and sanitation to the region.
The Center for Disease Control & Prevention, born from a prior. Organization called Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), focuses heavily on controlling and eliminating malaria in its first few years.
World Mosquito Day FAQs
Why do female Anopheles bite humans?
The females of those species pick up the parasite from infected people when they bite to obtain blood needed to nurture their eggs.
What time do malaria mosquitoes bite?
The female Anopheles mosquito is the only mosquito to transmit malaria, usually between the hours of 9pm and 5am.
Can a single mosquito bite cause malaria?
Yes, just a single bite from an infected mosquito can lead to malaria.
How to “Celebrate” World Mosquito Day
Raise funds for an anti-malaria organization
Team up with a local non-profit or start your own event to raise money for anti-malaria efforts. Donate the money to an organization that distributes nets, supports communities with medication and treatment, or works on vaccine and treatment research efforts.
Learn about malaria
Learn about how malaria spreads, where it's most prevalent, and how to protect yourself if you live in or travel to an at-risk area.
Raise awareness among friends
Malaria can affect anyone in many parts of the world, so it's important that people have accurate information about the disease. Finding some useful information from a reputable organization to share on social media is a great option.
5 Interesting Facts About Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal
Mosquitoes cause more deaths than any other animal on earth!
Only females bite—and only when breeding
When they're trying to reproduce, female mosquitoes need to feed on blood for the protein. Males and female mosquitoes not trying to produce eggs subsist on flower nectar.
Male and female mosquitoes synchronize their wingbeats with their mates.
Mosquitoes aren't attracted to light
Unlike most bugs, mosquitoes aren't attracted to light, but to carbon dioxide. This gives them the indication that a mammal with tasty blood is nearby.
Hypodermic needles are inspired by mosquitoes
The sharp proboscis that mosquitoes use to draw blood has inspired the design of improved, less painful hypodermic needles used in medicine.
Why World Mosquito Day is Important
It promotes awareness of malaria
Malaria is a common disease and can show up practically anywhere. It’s important to know how it’s transmitted, when you’re at risk, and how to protect yourself.
It raises funds for malaria research and treatment
Without a vaccine, malaria still ravages populations around the world. Research organizations are working constantly to find a vaccine and improved treatment.
It reminds us to appreciate scientists
Although there’s a long way to go before the disease is eradicated, medical science breakthroughs have led to improved treatments for patients, better prevention measures, and a stronger understanding of the disease and its vectors.
World Mosquito Day dates