I have absolutely no idea why God invented mosquitoes. I cannot see they do anything useful at all apart from being a tasty snack for lizards and tarantulas. However, living in the tropics they are all over the place and you would think you would get used to mosquitoes and not let them bother you. You don’t. When I first arrived in the Dominican Republic around 12 years ago, when I was bitten, which was often, I would get a large lump and it would itch like crazy for days. However I think your body must build immunity as now when I get bitten I just get a little lump which goes after an hour or so. I still don’t like them though.
In the early days I would spray anti mosquito spray all over my body from head to toe, just like all of the tourists, but if you live with mosquitoes all year round, besides being very expensive, I can’t see that it does you any good to cover yourself with chemicals day after day.So you try and have preventative measures such as screens on the windows and mosquito nets. Also good are mosquito coils which you burn. They are especially good outside in the evenings under the table to stop the little critters munching on your ankles.
Where we live now in the mountains we are lucky enough not to have mosquitoes all year round. However they started to appear around six weeks ago and there were millions of them. The locals have all sorts of ideas to stop them biting including rubbing yourself all over with vanilla, or garlic.
We have neem trees which mosquitoes are not supposed to like so people were cutting small branches off and putting them round their necks like a garland to ward the mosquitoes off – they would even sleep with the branches in bed with them. In the barrios of the towns where there are less trees and even more mosquitoes, they burn tyres which although it works in getting rid of the mosquitoes, means the whole house is covered with black sticky soot and I hate to think what it does to your lungs.
There are good reasons for trying to get rid of mosquitoes though, apart from the bites and the exceedingly annoying high pitched whine in your ears when you are trying to sleep – dengue and malaria.
There is not that much malaria in the country although there is in Haiti and given that the mosquitoes don’t seem to realize where the border is they hop over into the Dominican border towns. However dengue is another story. There are several cases of dengue all over the country and it seems especially bad at the moment with getting on for 100 deaths so far this year. The incidence of dengue fever has increased dramatically since the 1960s, with around 50–100 million people infected yearly in over 100 countries.
Dengue is also known as break bone fever as it presents with a high fever, severe headache and aching all over the body. It is usually accompanied by a measles like rash. The virus has four different types; infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications.
There are various types, the worst being haemorrhagic where the levels of platelets drop significantly and lead to bleeding under the skin and dangerously low blood pressure. There is no treatment apart from fever reducing medicine and constant rehydration.
Dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquito belonging to the genus Aedes, principally Aedes aegypti. It is a bigger mosquito than the average so easier to see it coming, plus it has white feet. The Dominicans call them “pata blanca” mosquitoes or “white paw”.
As there is no commercially available vaccine for dengue, prevention is sought by reducing the habitat and the number of mosquitoes and limiting exposure to bites.
The local authorities hand out leaflets telling people not to have standing water close to the house, which is not easy when so many have to go to stand pipes or the river to fill buckets and they also collect rain water. Dog bowls and flower vases all have to be emptied regularly as well. They also fumigate the areas with little trucks driving round spraying everyone and everything with some chemical which supposedly kills the mosquitoes.
Luckily for us, the temperature is now cooling down so the pesky little mozzies should be a thing of the past until next year.
by Lindsay de Feliz.
Lindsay lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, one stepson, 8 cats and 3 dogs. She was formerly Marketing Director of various financial companies in the City of London, and left the UK around 11 years ago to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. She eventually came to the Dominican Republic on a 6 month contract, fell in love with the country and its people and stayed. Lindsay has a blog www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com and is currently writing a book about her experiences over the last 10 years.
Lindsay de Feliz is the author of What About Your Saucepans? Published by Summertime and available on Amazon in both book and kindle versions.
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