A WARNING has been issued in Mallorca about the arrival of the parasitic tiger mosquito.
Posing a serious threat to animals, particularly dogs and cats, the insect is capable of transmitting the potentially fatal heartworm disease.
Their bite spreads a worm called Dirofilaria immitis which can grow up to a foot long and lodge itself in the pulmonary arteries.
If not controlled it can lead to severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.
Residents in Alcudia, Pollenca, Can Picafort, Sa Pobla, and Palma are already on high alert after the Moixica Veterinary Clinic issued a warning that tiger mosquitos have spread the disease across almost all of the island.
Specialists are now urging all pet owners, especially those who live in the wetlands, to apply preventative treatments such as injections or pills as soon as possible.
“The biggest problem is that an animal might not show symptoms for a long time, but could still be a carrier of the infection,” said veterinarian Marcos Makowski from the Moixica Clinic in a statement.
“By the time fatigue, coughs, a swollen abdomen and renal failure are noticeable, the disease is serious, where long and complex treatment will be needed.”
Although there is no official case register for heartworm in Mallorca, Mikel Bengoa, a leading specialist on tiger mosquitos in Spain, explained that the species has one of the greatest invasive potentials in the world.
“The bigger the mosquito population, the more chance there is of infection, it’s a matter of probability just like the lottery, so it is not surprising that veterinarians have issued a warning about heartworm,” said Bengoa.
The biologist added that heat and humidity plays a big part in fostering parasitic diseases, which makes the Balearic Islands the perfect habitat for the tiger mosquito.
There are however a number of measures that citizens can implement to stop the spread of tiger mosquitos, including not allowing water to accumulate in pots or bottles kept outside and ensuring that drinking troughs are washed regularly.
Tiger mosquitos usually fly at a low level, so most bites occur in the legs.
Although heartworm mostly affects animals, in rare cases, humans can also become infected with the disease.