For humans, what is the world's most deadly animal? Presumably, the creature at the top of the list should be one that we are most afraid of. If we look at those animals that most often inspire phobias and jitters, there's the usual assortment of snakes, sharks, spiders, bats and some big predators like wolves and alligators. The top killer, however, tends to register as nothing more than an annoyance, much less something to be deathly afraid of. As Bill Gates recently pointed out, that killer is the mosquito.
No other species, including our own, is responsible for the loss of as many human lives each year as mosquitoes are, Gates continues. Humans murder around 475,000 other people each year. Snakes kill around 50,000, while dogs (mainly from rabies transmission) claim another 25,000 lives. Some of the most feared animals (sharks, wolves) kill fewer than 10.
The diseases that mosquitos carry and transmit to people they bite, on the other hand, kill 725,000.
Here's Gates with more on those burdens:
The worst is malaria, which kills more than 600,000 people every year; another 200 million cases incapacitate people for days at a time. It threatens half of the world’s population and causes billions of dollars in lost productivity annually. Other mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.
And they affect population patterns on a grand scale: In many malarial zones, the disease drives people inland and away from the coast, where the climate is more welcoming to mosquitoes.
The Gates Foundation is hosting a campaign called Mosquito Week. Here's more about that educational effort: