Can you get an infection from a mosquito bite?

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A leg of a man with infection of mosquito bite

Overview

Mosquito bites are itchy red bumps that appear on the skin after a mosquito penetrates through the skin with its large needle-like mouth part to suck your blood. Mosquito bites often look like hives. Mosquito bites are normally found on exposed body parts such as the face and the arms but sometimes, there can be mosquito bites found on other parts of the body.

A mosquito bite may cause a large area of redness, soreness, and swelling. This is the body’s allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. A mosquito leaves behind little of its saliva while sucking on your blood. The mosquito’s saliva is causing the itch. The tiny red bumps are the body’s natural immune response to the saliva of the mosquito as it creates histamines causing the skin to itch. These tiny itchy red bumps are actually the body’s allergic reaction to mosquito bites. Almost everyone is allergic to mosquito bites but there is a small part of the population who has no reaction to mosquito bites.

Complications of a Mosquito Bite

Mosquito bites usually clear up on its own in just a few days. People tend to scratch these mosquito bites. The more you scratch, the more these bumps become itchy. If you keep on scratching these bumps, it will break your skin which is a bad thing because by doing so, you allow contaminants and other substances to enter your open wound which may result to infections.

An infected mosquito bite may result in significant swelling, very red bump, and be hot to the touch. An infected bite needs to be seen by a doctor instead of treating it at home.
The doctor can either prescribe medicines or a special cream or provide further recommendations. Infected mosquito bites that are left untreated can develop abscesses or cellulitis.

  • Cellulitis – Cellulitis occurs when bacteria enter through a crack or cut in the skin.
    It is caused by the Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria. The bacterial infection spreads to the skin and can also spread rapidly to other parts of the body. It makes the skin red spreading out from the bite. The red area is hot, tender, and painful to the touch.
  • Abscess – Skin abscess is a bacterial infection that occurs when the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria enters the skin through a wound or injury, in this case, mosquito bite.
    It is a collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body. An abscess can cause redness, swelling, pain, and warmth. The swelling may contain fluid when pressed.
  • Impetigo – Impetigo is a local bacterial infection which is caused by picking or scratching at the bites. It causes red sores that can give soft scabs, sores, and pus. It is more common in itchy bites.
  • Lymphangitis – Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymphatic channels. It occurs when bacteria or viruses enter through a cut or open wound, which includes mosquito bites, and spreads to the lymph channels. This is a more serious side effect of the infection can get into the bloodstream.

Viruses and Severe Illnesses Caused by Mosquito Bites

Mosquitoes are everywhere especially if you live in a hot and humid climate and it’s quite normal to get mosquito bites but you should be aware that there are some mosquitoes that carry certain parasites or viruses that can cause severe illness. Here are some of the diseases carried by some mosquitoes:

  • West Nile Virus (WNV) – WNV is common in the US and Canada. It is a disease carried by mosquitoes. They get the virus from biting infected birds and spread the virus to humans by a mosquito bite. The disease cannot be spread from human to human. Only 1% of mosquitoes carry WNV. Among people who get WNV, only 1% get the serious kind. It takes 3 to 14 days to get WNV after a mosquito bite.
  • Dengue – Four closely related dengue viruses cause dengue fever which is also associated with the viruses causing yellow fever and West Nile infection. Symptoms of dengue are flu-like symptoms which can last for about 10 days which include sudden high fever, swollen lymph glands, severe headache, severe joint and muscle pains, vomiting, nausea, and skin rash. The symptoms of dengue come out after 3 to 14 days of infection.
  • Yellow fever – Yellow fever is a serious and potentially deadly disease caused by the flavivirus which is transmitted when you are bitten by an infected mosquito.
    Mosquitoes become infected with flavivirus when they bite an infected monkey or human. It is characterized by high fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin. The disease cannot be spread from human to human.
  • Malaria – Malaria is a deadly disease that is brought about by a bit of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Mosquitoes that are infected carry the Plasmodium parasite that spreads to your bloodstream and infect red blood cells once infected mosquito bites you. The symptoms of malaria develop 10 days to 4 weeks of infection.
  • Chikungunya – Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease that is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever and severe joint pain accompanied by other symptoms such as muscle pain, nausea, headache, rash, and fatigue. The joint pain may last for days or for weeks. Most patients fully recover from the disease but in some cases, the joint pain may remain for months or even for years.