Cartoon © Natalie Dee | http://www.nataliedee.com
Me again! I have a hard enough time posting twice a week, never mind twice in one day, but I’ve just realized that today is World Malaria Day. Malaria, as you probably know, is a mosquito-borne disease that’s prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical areas — especially Africa, where it claims the life of a child every 30 seconds.
Mosquitoes are a fact of life in my part of Canada. Our summers are hot and humid, so once the sun begins to set, the mozzies come out in full force. If you’ve ever been to cottage country in early July, you know just how delightful they can be. (Nothing like the black flies in early May, though: if Dante had added a 10th circle of hell, I’m convinced that would be it.)
Mosquitoes have always been nothing more than a seasonal nuisance. As a kid, walking around in public covered in lurid pink calamine splotches was more painful than the bite and the itching combined. But moving to Singapore changed that, because in Southeast Asia, as in much of the world, the little blood-suckers can be deadly.
Malaria was pretty much a non-issue in Singapore when we arrived in 2003. Not so dengue fever, which always seemed to be lurking in the shadows. There was a particularly nasty outbreak in 2005, and for a few months there, it wasn’t uncommon to see handmade “Dengue Here” signs posted outside affected condos.
Dengue is a miserable disease. The scary thing about it is that there’s no vaccine, and treatment options are limited. The scarier thing is that in severe cases it can lead to death, as it did 19 times throughout that horrible year.
Death to mosquitoes
Singapore has declared war on the mosquito. Stagnant water is a preferred spot for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, and the government is tireless in its efforts to eliminate breeding grounds in the home.
The Mozzie Police once knocked on my door and very politely asked to inspect the house for stagnant water. Had they found any, we would have been fined about $200. We took the dengue threat seriously, though, and even made a point of keeping the toilet lids closed.
Large-scale spraying of insecticides — known as fogging — keeps the adult mosquito population in check. Despite the safety assurances trotted out by the National Environment Agency, I was never comfortable with it. It smelled like gasoline and left an oily film on the skin. How do I know, you ask? Unfortunately, the weekly fogging at my townhouse complex took place at the exact moment the girls got off the school bus. They had to run through the noxious mist to reach our front door.
The fogging probably damaged our respiratory systems, internal organs, and who knows what else, but the good news is we were rarely bothered by mosquitoes. Although… there was that time Elder Daughter got a bite smack in the middle of her chest. It looked disturbingly like a third nipple, which in sibling rivalry terms is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Every time my little polytheliac wandered into view, Younger Daughter would shout at her, “How are the triplets today?”
Maybe that’s why Elder Daughter never seemed to mind the fogging as much as the rest of us did.
To learn more about how you can help wipe out malaria for good, please click on the button below.