Wednesday, September 28, 2016

LXXIX. Dengue Fiebre

Dengue Fever

This evening, in the patio during our regular margarita time, we heard the unaccustomed sound of a two-stroke engine. We speculated what it might be. Not a lawnmower nor even a weed-eater, because there are no lawns to be either mowed or edged around here. We were befuddled. Soon though, in addition to the noise, we saw smoke rising over the palm in the yard of a casa on the privada off Calle Guadalupe Victoria, right behind our casita. We recognised the smell of the smoke that was wafting our way.  Our neighbors—vecinos—were being sprayed by the local health department to kill mosquitos carrying Dengue Fever.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito--a nasty guy
that not only can carry dengue, but yellow
fever, zika virus, and chikungunya.
According to WebMD nearly 100 million tropical-dwelling people a year are infected with this debilitating disease—fever, headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea, fatigue—which generally lasts at least a week. In other words, similar to a very bad case of the flu. Dengue is spread only by the bite of a certain type of mosquito which has already bitten a person whose blood contains the virus. 

Everyone around the lake here is familiar with the disease and knows someone who has contracted it, or they’ve had it themselves. A couple of months ago, the couple who own the bakery/deli where we shop several times a week came down with Dengue. Fernando described the experience to mi esposa; it was bad. I just got an email from the moderator of my Spanish/English conversation hour telling me he probably wouldn't be able to come to the next class—Dengue.

Wondering about the etymology of “dengue”, I googled it. It’s a Spanish word, fittingly, and means, “careful, in an exaggerated manner”. The supposition is that dengue describes the way an infected person might walk, favoring their painful joints. Not something one would want to experience.

If it’s in the neighborhood, I decided, we better take precautions. What with the rain we’ve been having recently—nearly every night—and the small accumulation of water under the outside work table that’s reluctant to dry up, not to mention the fountain’s pool, I figure our patio offers attractive breeding waters for mosquitos. 

I had an idea. Early in the summer I bought some insecticide to handle whatever it was that had been shredding our canna lilies’ leaves. I shopped around, wanting nothing that might harm the birds that came to our nearby fountain, nor hurt the tortugas with which we still plan to inhabit the pool. I came up with a chemical called cypermethrin that could be sprayed. Another Google search showed me it’s also effective against mosquito larvae. And, done! 

Plus, we still have our last line of defense—the electric tennis racket that we can swing, sportily, at those little suckers and kill them with a satisfying zap.

Update: A week after this post I met the fellow mentioned above—the Spanish/English moderator—walking past our front door. He's much better now, but said that for the first few days of the fever he had a 104 degree temperature and a headache like never before. It turns out he lives in that block behind us. It must have been his case that brought the health department's truck out to spray.

Further update: Just now—about ten days after the original post—a fellow dressed in blue coveralls and wearing a simple respirator over his mouth came down our street preceded by the buzzing of a two-stroke sprayer he had strapped to his back. In his wake the stinky mosquito spray. He briskly walked into our next-door neighbors' house and the whole family of four children and several adults immediately tumbled outside onto la banqueta, the toddler holding his nose. Out back of our place, the stinky spray wafted over our high adjoining wall. Our municipal health department in action to prevent more mosquito-borne dengue fever.

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