Jaws might not have had the same cultural impact if it had featured a tiny, buzzing insect in lieu of a great white shark.

But, as Bill Gates explained for last year's World Mosquito Day, we really should be much more worried about mosquitoes than sharks.

Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and Zika, make them one of the deadliest animals in the world, responsible for millions of deaths.

Indeed, as the below chart shows, mosquitoes kill more people every day than sharks have in an entire century.

Image: Gates Notes

A report released earlier this year also suggests that climate change is only going to make the problem worse. The range of two key disease-spreading species - Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus - is set to expand significantly by the middle of this century.

“If no action is taken to reduce the current rate at which the climate is warming, pockets of habitat will open up across many urban areas with vast amounts of individuals susceptible to infection," explained Moritz Kraemer, co-author of the report and an infectious disease scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Oxford.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about epidemics?

Epidemics are a huge threat to health and the economy: the vast spread of disease can literally destroy societies.

In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and to enable access to them during outbreaks.

Our world needs stronger, unified responses to major health threats. By creating alliances and coalitions like CEPI, which involve expertise, funding and other support, we are able to collectively address the most pressing global health challenges.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum to tackle global health issues? Find out more here.

World Mosquito Day is held on 20 August every year – the anniversary of Sir Ronald Ross's discovery that female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his work on the disease.