May 10, 2018, 1:39:16 PM CDT Sep 7, 2023, 1:18:26 PM CDT

Protect your family from insect-borne illnesses

Reported cases of disease from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled since 2004. Take steps to keep your family healthy.

How to protect your family from mosquitos, ticks, and fleas with a list of symptoms to watch for. How to protect your family from mosquitos, ticks, and fleas with a list of symptoms to watch for.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled from 2004 to 2016.

Additionally, nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks have been discovered since 2004.

Insect-borne illnesses include West Nile virus, Zika virus, Chikungunya virus, Lyme disease, malaria and more. Learn more about the best ways to protect your family.

West Nile virus

West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, and is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. Only one in five people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will develop symptoms. These symptoms develop from 2 to 14 days from the time of the bite, and may include:

  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

Less than 1% of people who are infected with the West Nile virus develop life-threatening neurological symptoms. Learn more about the West Nile virus from the CDC.

Zika virus

Zika virus primarily spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito of a certain species, known as Aedes. Zika can also spread from mother to child through pregnancy and can be transmitted through sexual activity. Symptoms develop 3 to 14 days from the time of infection. Symptoms of Zika virus can include:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)

Learn more about the Zika virus from the CDC.

Chikungunya virus

The Chikungunya virus is also spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people infected with the Chikungunya virus develop symptoms three to seven days after being bitten. These symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash

Learn more about the Chikungunya virus from the CDC.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is the most common insect-borne illness in the United States, and it is transmitted by ticks. If not properly diagnosed and treated, Lyme disease can lead to serious, long-term complications affecting the heart, joints and nervous system. The first symptoms of being bitten by a tick carrying this illness typically appear three to 30 days after the bites, and can include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Distinctive rash at the site of the tick
  • Swollen lymph nodes

When reviewing symptoms, a provider will consider history of travel to a Lyme-endemic area. Learn more about Lyme disease from the CDC.


Malaria is a serious disease spread by parasite-infected mosquitos. Symptoms of malaria include flu-like illness, including fever, chills, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Complications can include severe anemia, kidney failure and neurological manifestations.

There are about 2,000 diagnosed cases of malaria in the U.S. each year. Typically, these occur in people who traveled to other countries where malaria is more common. In 2023, there have been cases of malaria in people who got it locally in Florida and Texas.

Despite these cases, the risk of getting malaria in the U.S. remains low. Learn more about malaria from the CDC.

Ways to prevent insect bites

Texas has the third-highest amount of mosquito-borne disease cases in the U.S. Take precautions to minimize your family’s risk:

  • Always use insect repellent when spending time outdoors.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants when in wooded or grassy areas.
  • Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Take steps to control ticks and fleas on household pets.
  • Use air conditioning when possible and repair any holes in window screens to keep bugs outside.
  • Empty or cover outdoor items that collect standing water.

If your child experiences any unusual symptoms after a bug bite – such as fever, headache, rash, fatigue, or joint and muscle pain – contact a pediatrician.

Learn more

See how to treat bug bites and stings in children for tips on how to care for your child at home and when to call the doctor.

Screen capture of family newsletter signup

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the Children's Health Family Newsletter.

Children's Health will not sell, share or rent your information to third parties. Please read our privacy policy.

Children's Health Family Newsletter

Get health tips and parenting advice from Children's Health experts sent straight to your inbox twice a month.

fever, insect, safety, virus, Zika

Childrens Health