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Prevent mosquito-borne illness in the U.S. and overseas

Most mosquitoes are relatively harmless. But some can cause serious diseases Mosquitoes can spread dangerous diseases no matter where you are.

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Did you know that there’re more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide? Most cause nothing more than an itch. But three species bear most of the responsibility for the spread of certain serious diseases. Reduce your risk of getting these diseases by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites.

The following serious diseases are mosquito-borne:

  • Malaria. In 2017, the World Health Organization estimates there were 219 million cases of malaria worldwide. More than 90% of those cases are in Africa. If you’re traveling to Africa, talk to your doctor about medications to prevent malaria. If symptoms arise, a doctor can diagnose malaria with a blood test.
  • Yellow fever. Tropical or subtropical areas of South America or Africa are common for yellow fever. If you plan to travel to these areas, you should consider getting vaccinated. There’s also an ongoing yellow fever outbreak in Brazil. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if you haven’t received the yellow fever vaccine, postpone your travel to Brazil. TRICARE covers the yellow fever vaccine or other vaccines required for overseas travel for active duty family members who are traveling with their sponsor on official travel or permanent change of station orders.
  • Zika. The CDC warns that the Zika virus presents additional risk for pregnant women. While it doesn’t usually require hospitalization, consider delaying travel to areas where the virus is active if you’re pregnant. This includes parts of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Check the world map of areas with risk of Zika for the latest information.
  • West Nile virus. The leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. is West Nile virus, according to the CDC. You’ll find cases of West Nile virus during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through the fall.

Mosquitoes can spread dangerous diseases no matter where you are. Here are some ways that you can prevent mosquito bites and reduce your chances of getting sick:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when exploring outdoors, especially at night.
  • Use an insect repellant that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Be sure to follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed.
  • Sleep in an air-conditioned or well-screened room.

Take command of your health this summer and stay alert in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. To learn more about how to prevent bug bites, check out Bug Week from the Military Health System. And find out what your TRICARE benefit covers.

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