Over the past several weeks, there has been a flurry of media coverage on Zika, an illness spread by mosquitoes that was previously assumed to be relatively benign. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, achy joints and red eyes, but more recently public health experts have suggested that the virus may cause a severe birth defect called microcephaly, a neurological disorder that causes abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains, as well Guillain-Barré, a syndrome that can cause temporary paralysis.
Because mosquitoes carry diseases like malaria and dengue fever, and irritate us, humans do a lot to avoid them. In most places people have to fend for themselves against the pests by sleeping under mosquito nets or using repellant. A number of new repellant formulas have hit the market in recent years, many with questionable efficacy. Researchers at New Mexico State University decided to compare the effectiveness of different repellants and perfumes, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Insect Science.
Imagine you are walking through a park and suddenly thousands of Volkswagen Beetles start falling from the sky. They are falling at a speed that is five times as fast as you can run, so dodging them is not an option. Game over for you, right? Not if you're a mosquito. Sure, a raindrop is to the pesky insect what a Volkswagen would be to us, but mosquitoes have some natural advantages in this scenario that humans don't.