Like a lot of folks from my generation, I have been afraid of sharks since the movie "Jaws" first hit theaters in the late '70s. But while sharks sure look the part, the truth of the matter is that they don't even come close to being the world's deadliest animals.

Which animal takes that prize? When it comes to human deaths, no other animal comes close — not even humans themselves.

It's the mosquito.  

How could a teeny little insect be so dangerous? After all, their bites may be a little itchy, but life-threatening?

It's not the bite, per se, it's the disease that's left behind that makes mosquitoes so dangerous to humans. Mosquitoes carry malaria, a disease that kills 600,000 people and sickens more than 200 million each year, as well as dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.

Mosquitoes are present in every corner of the world except for Antarctica and during peak breeding season, they outnumber every other animal on Earth except termites and ants. So the danger to humans is widespread.  

But the good news is that unlike sharks, mosquitoes are easier to repel, and most mosquito-borne diseases can be avoided with vaccinations. Of course the trick is getting these vaccinations to the people who need them the most. That's been the work of groups such as the World Health Organization and Malaria No More. In recent years, this work has produced a 51 percent decline in child malaria-related deaths and they hope to completely eradicate the disease within the next decade.  

Now, that would be amazing. Then the only thing left for humans to worry about would be humans, themselves. And there is no vaccine for that.

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.