• By Deborah Balzer

Infectious Diseases A-Z: Can mosquitoes carry more than one virus at a time?

July 10, 2017

A recent study suggests mosquitoes can infect people with the Zika virus and chikungunya virus in a single bite.

Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, says, "The mosquitoes that can carry yellow fever can also carry other viral diseases, such as chikungunya and Zika, specifically, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The geographic distribution of that certain mosquito, as well as whether those viral diseases are endemic in humans in that particular area, determines whether those mosquitoes can carry one, two, maybe all three of those different viral pathogens."

Watch: Dr. Pritish Tosh discusses mosquito-borne diseases.

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"Most commonly, if you were going to get a mosquito-borne or a vector-borne infection, it’s going to be with one of these viruses," says Dr. Tosh. "However, with the possibility that a mosquito can carry more than one of these, it is certainly possible that you can get more than one viral infection from a mosquito."

Dr. Tosh adds, "We’ve seen this with other vector-borne diseases. With certain tick-borne diseases, you can actually get Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and Babesia — all from the same tick. Usually, it’s going to be one of them, but it’s certainly possible you can get a co-infection from a single vector, in this case, a tick or a mosquito."

Protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites.

"It’s important for people when they’re going outside, especially in heavily wooded areas, to use protection," says Dr. Tosh. "Use 25 percent deet as an insect repellent, wear long-sleeved clothing, protective clothing, prevent tick bites and also mosquito bites."

Zika virus continues to be a major public health concern, especially for women who are pregnant. Dr. Tosh says, "We are still recommending that pregnant women not travel to Zika-endemic areas."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an updated list of areas with risk of Zika.

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