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What is the world’s deadliest animal?

3 minute read
Tanned man in a creek spraying mosquito repellent

When you think of the world’s deadliest animals, you probably go straight to the big offenders – sharks, snakes and other humans. And, it’s not your fault for assuming these fierce creatures are killers, especially with Hollywood giving us classic films like Sharknado, The Shallows and Anaconda.

When you take a look at the stats, sharks are responsible for just 10 human deaths per year, snakes are higher at 50,000 and humans are at a shocking 475,000 deaths, but taking out the most deadly animal is actually a creature that’s smaller than your thumbnail. The humble mosquito.

biggest killer infographic

According to the World Health Organisation, these tiny bloodsuckers are responsible for 725,000 human deaths around the globe, but it’s not their strength or intelligence that makes them so deadly.

Mozzies can carry blood-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue fever and encephalitis and when they bite, they infect their prey. The reason these suckers are so good at spreading disease is that they manage to bypass most of our body’s defence mechanisms and attack one of our most vulnerable – our bloodstream.

Which is one of the reasons that Bill Gates is leading Mosquito Week – a campaign to eradicate malaria and combat dengue fever.

Credit: Bill Gates

What happens when a mosquito bites you?

When a female mosquito bites you (only female mozzies need blood to feed), it breaks the skin without you even feeling it by injecting a numbing agent before taking your blood. By the time you feel the bite, it’s generally done feeding off you.

Mosquitoes are found in every region of the world, except Antarctica, so there’s no escape!

How do you stop mosquitoes from biting you?

There’s no escape from these tiny suckers, with mosquitoes found in every single region of the world, except Antarctica. During certain times of the year, there are more mozzies on the face of the earth than every other animal excluding termites and ants.

Although there’s no fail-proof method to escape them (besides moving to Antarctica), there are ways you can make yourself less appetising to mozzies. The most common way is to cover your skin in DEET, but if you prefer a more natural repellent, a study published in the Journal of American Mosquito Control Association found that eucalyptus oil was another deterrent.

If you do receive a mosquito bite, it will probably be itchy and slightly swollen, but generally your body’s white blood cells will heal it within a few days.

In Australia, we’re lucky in that the mainland is free of malaria, however if you’re planning on travelling overseas, especially to places like Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands, make sure you talk to your health care professional about antimalarial medication.

We also don’t tend to get regular outbreaks of dengue fever in Australia and if we do get a case, it’s from someone arriving in the country who has been infected overseas. However, the land down under is home to many mosquitoes and if someone arrives with dengue fever, these mozzies can spread it. If you’re travelling overseas, it’s important to chat with your health care professional prior to your trip and read up on the symptoms.

We’ve partnered with the Mark Hughes Foundation to trek the Sandakan Death March and follow in the footsteps of Aussie WWII prisoners of war who faced debilitating heat, relentless mosquitoes, starvation and often fatal injuries. Of the 2,000+ Sandakan prisoners, only six Australians survived; so in the lead up to the October 2018 trek, we’ll be releasing a series of articles on the incredible limits of the human body. To find out more about the trek, visit the Mark Hughes Foundation.

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