Mosquito emoji: A pair of public health workers have an itch to make it happen

Dogs and cats have emojis, so do horses, eagles and rats. There are emojis for bats, spiders, snakes and even pink-maned unicorns, which don’t even exist.

A pair of public health workers think it bites that there isn’t one for a far more common and threatening member of the real animal kingdom: mosquitoes.

Why shouldn’t people who hate the little blood suckers in the backyard, as well as those who love them in the lab, be able to express their feelings about them in a single character via text or on social media, ask Marla Shaivitz, a digital communications manager at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs, and Jeff Chertak, a senior program officer for malaria advocacy and communications at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The researchers hope to generate buzz with a petition to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit in charge of such characters.

“On average, there are nearly 15,000 more mosquito-related tweets shared per day than beetle-related tweets, potentially reaching 170 million more Twitter users,” Shaivitz and Chertak wrote in their pitch.

They argue mosquitoes are found on six of seven continents and kill several million people a year, far more than sharks, snakes and other predators all together. They spread diseases including malaria, Zika, dengue and yellow fever.

The emoji could be used in communications campaigns and warnings by scientists and public health workers, the pair said. It also could be used by those sickened to identify themselves or warn others of a particularly skeeter infested area.

Other bug emojis include butterflies, caterpillars, ants and honeybees. Spider webs even got the nod.

Only a few emojis are added annually to the stock, and the consortium will pick new ones next month. There are 67 finalists, which include a llama, sliced bagel, a tooth and a lab coat.

The public health workers hope the Unicode emoji subcommittee gets the itch and gives the mosquito a [insert thumbs up here].

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mercohn

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