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DENGUE – Fight The Mosquito Bite

DENGUE – Fight The Mosquito Bite
July 13
10:21 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

Have you ever been somewhere and noticed lots of red marks on a person’s leg and automatically you told yourself that “they are not from around here.” As Belizeans we are under the impression that bugs and insects only bite people ‘weh smell different.’ Hence the reason why you can be in the same room or place as someone else and they would be the only ones being bitten by the sand fly, dakta fly, ‘batlass,’ and the mosquitos.

It’s true that there are just some people that insects and mosquitos gravitate to. Being bitten by bugs in the tropics is viewed as part of the package and the welcoming wagon when visiting Belize. But even the locals have noticed that mosquitos have a preference for specific people. I don’t like the outdoors for the same reason, and if I do go out, best believe I will be indoor before night fall, because I attract mosquitos. So what’s the deal with being bitten more than other people? Studies show that mosquitos use various ways to detect humans and a combination of senses to decide their “prey.” Mosquitos may be viewed as silly insects but it is interesting to know how they know exactly where we are. Personally I find it very annoying to be in my bed in complete darkness only to hear the zing of a mosquito near my ear. I mean, they have the entire house! The entire yard! Why come zing near my ear? Annoying little buggers!

First of all, there are colors that make you more attractive to mosquitos. Believe it or not, dark colors will make you the perfect target. You should use light colors and should generally avoid earth tones – black, dark blue, red and green – as these make you more attractive to the female mosquito. But while we generally focus on colors, it is not the main way mosquitos decide their target. They have senses that detect odor and body heat. One of the main ways they find their target is through carbon dioxide. Researchers have discovered that female mosquitos have nerve cells called cpA neurons that have receptors which detect carbon dioxide and skin odors. This is one of the main reasons they are able to zero in on us as a target from afar. Fun fact – mosquitos can detect carbon dioxide from over 150 ft. away. They then fly in a zigzag motion until they catch the origin of the stream. There is approximately 4% carbon dioxide in one breath, but each person may give off more carbon dioxide than others based on body type and activities.

Apart from carbon dioxide, body odors are of importance as well. Mosquitos can smell odor even in the absence of carbon dioxide. They are attracted to alcoholics, blood type O and physically exerting yourself or sweating. Taking all this into account it may be easier now to understand why mosquitos follow you around or why you may feel that you attract them once you’ve arrived at your location. But mosquitos are more than just an annoyance. They transmit several diseases including Malaria, Dengue viruses and filarial worms. Presently we have reports of Dengue being a health concern, as there are people being admitted intra hospital due to low platelets from the virus as well as being confined to their homes so as to not spread the disease.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection. It is found in Tropical and sub-tropical climates world-wide and is transmitted mainly by the female aedes aegypti mosquito and to a lesser extent by the aedes albopictus mosquito (the mosquito responsible for chikungunya, yellow fever and zika infection). There are 4 serotypes of the virus that causes dengue: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4. When you get diagnosed with Dengue your lab test generally tells you which serotype you contracted. Once you get that serotype you have lifetime immunity for that specific type and temporary immunity the others, however in the case of secondary infection with one of the other serotypes it increases your risk of developing severe dengue. Aedes aegypti lives mainly in urban habitats and breeds in clean containers. The mosquito is recognized as the primary vector (disease carrier) of Dengue. Asymptomatic and symptomatic humans are carriers of the disease and a source for non-infected mosquitos.

Dengue presents itself with fever and flu-like symptoms. You should suspect fever if you are in the tropics, subtropics, was bitten by mosquitos and presents with high fever of 40 degrees Celsius, pain behind the eyes, headache, muscle, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, rash or swollen glands. Dengue seldom causes death, however severe dengue presents with complicated symptoms that are potentially deadly. This includes bleeding – fast breathing, abdominal pain, restlessness and fatigue. If you were diagnosed with Dengue and start with these symptoms then the next 24-48 hours are critical and you should go to the nearest health care facility for assistance to avoid complication and risk of death.

At present the spread of Dengue is on the rise but there are things we care able to do to assist in prevention and control of this disease. We already understand how the mosquito chooses her victim and we can modify our behaviour to lower risk of being bitten. We should wear light colors, be conscious of our activities and the feeding time of mosquitos. We know that the female mosquito bites early morning and dusk. Exercising around those times of day makes you a target as you will be exhaling carbon dioxide at a higher rate, and the increase in body heat and body exertion are all attractive. Be mindful that repellents are effective for approximately 90 minutes. Use those that contain 15% DEET. The female mosquito that transmits dengue breeds in clean water, so it is imperative that you make the effort to not have empty containers that would collect rain water and if so it would be best to turn them over. Do not keep old tires and bottles lying around as they are reservoirs and breeding areas. If you are infected with Dengue, use proper protection to ensure that infection stops at you. Prevent mosquitos from biting you and passing it on to others. Use a net and stay hydrated.

The Ministry of Health along with Vector Control provides what Belizeans consider an annoying truck that sprays an awful aerosol in the air. I am of the impression that the truck repels humans more than it does mosquitos for most Belizeans have a tendency to run indoors and lock up their houses. Quite the contrary people, this is a mechanism set in place by the government to repel mosquitos and for your protection. You should open your doors and windows and allow aerosol to pass through your house. Next time you hear the truck passing, stop protecting the mosquitos indoors and let them know it is time to leave! You can help make a difference.

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