Name a dangerous animal.  What came to your mind?  It’s probably the old “Wizard of Oz” refrain: “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

The Telegraph published an article about the most deadly animals in the world with regard to how many people they kill every year.  It’s a motley list with a wide margin of error because it is a compilation of many reports. Still, it is intriguing to read about deadly animals with the most human fatalities:

NUMBER 5: Tsetse flies

  • People killed per year: 10,000
  • Most common cause: African trypanosomiasis, or “sleeping sickness.” Infected tsetse flies spread the disease by biting humans. Symptoms include an initial painful bite, a large ulcer by the bite site, headache, rash and fever.
  • Where they live: Rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • How to protect yourself: There is no vaccine or medication available to prevent sleeping sickness. Treatment options vary depending on the stage of the disease. Avoid being bitten by wearing heavier fabrics in neutral colors. Check outdoor containers or vehicles for tsetse flies before you use them. Insect repellent has only limited effectiveness against tsetse flies. Recovery is possible if medical intervention happens early.

NUMBER 4: Dogs

  • People killed per year: 25,000
  • Most common cause: Rabies
  • Where rabies thrives: Cities and rural areas all over the world, except Antarctica.  
  • How to protect yourself: Rabies are transmitted through the contact of infected saliva from the animal.  In sophisticated countries like Canada, the United States, and United Kingdom for example, animal control and rabies vaccinations have curtailed fatalities. The BBC reports this is not true in third-world countries like India, where feral dogs account for more than 30,000,000 stray dogs and over 20,000 deaths annually. Going to India? A rabies vaccination could save your life.

NUMBER 3: Snakes

  • People killed per year: 50,000
  • Most common weapon: Toxic venom snake bites. More than 200 deadly venomous snake species inhabit the earth. The venom of the saw-scaled viper is not the most toxic snake venom, but it kills more humans than any other snake because they exist in populated areas.
  • Where they live: Deadly snakes live in warmer clients, arid regions and dry savannas. Snow does not mean the absence of poisonous snakes.  Rattlesnakes are found in Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains in the USA. At least one type of poisonous snake is found in every U.S. state except Alaska and Hawaii.
  • How to protect yourself: Watch where you step when you are in snake territory.  Don’t stick your arms or legs in crevices you cannot see into. At night, snakes seek warmth, be cautious around rocks because they retain heat.  It’s wise to carry antivenom in snake territory and wear snake boots. About 85% of snake bites occur below the knee. If you or a travel buddy are bitten, immediately get away from the snake!  It can bite again. Don’t try to capture or kill the snake. Don’t try to suck out the venom or apply a tourniquet.  Be aware that swelling can cause edema, a buildup of fluids under the skin.  Seek help as fast as possible. Wash the bite with soap and water. Do not apply ice or drink alcohol.  Keep the bite site below heart level with neutral or immobilized movement.  Seek help.

NUMBER 2: Humans

  • People killed per year: 475,000
  • Most common cause: Weapons and handguns.


  • Where they live: Around the world.

NUMBER 1: Mosquitoes

  • People killed per year: 1,000,000 plus
  • Most common cause: Malaria is the most deadly vector-borne disease spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes cause more than 1,000,000 deaths every year. Malaria, alone, was responsible for 214 million cases and 438,000 deaths in 2015. Dengue Fever is also a serious mosquito-caused illness.


  • Where they live: Mosquitos thrive almost anywhere except deep freeze zones.  They thrive in tall grass, wooded areas and wetlands.  The malaria-carrying mosquito, Anopheles, is found in Latin and South America, Africa and Asia.
  • How to protect yourself: Bite prevention!  Use protective clothing and insecticide repellents to treat skin and clothing such as pyrethrum insect spray.  UNICEF recommends insecticide treated nets (ITNs) to create a barrier against mosquitoes.  If you are traveling to an area with Malaria cautions, the Centers for Disease Control recommends visiting a travel clinic to get malaria prevention tablets, follow the directions and complete the dosages.  If diagnosed early, survival is possible with antimalarial drugs.

Knowledge is just information.  Action based on wisdom is powerful.  U.S. citizens are known to skip travel clinics and travel insurance – this can cost you your health and life.  

The only surprises when you travel should be good ones.  Know before you go, gear up to stay safe and have fun. Download the Depart Smart Travel Safety Checklist with more than 50 touchpoints to stay safe abroad.