The monsoon season in Asia is often a favorite time for tourism due to off-peak sales and discounted prices. One of the things one must be aware of during this period is the notorious real-life vampire that feeds on human blood – the mosquito. The percentage of mosquito-borne illnesses rise during this period, but there are various ways to protect oneself from being bitten and possibly contracting a disease.
The female mosquito feeds on human blood to secure the maturity of their eggs and by doing so transmits viruses and parasites that cause severe and deadly diseases. The more common ones in Asia include Dengue Fever, Malaria, Chikungunya, while Yellow Fever and Zika are more common in Africa and South America.
The Anopheles mosquito causes malaria. The parasite usually takes host in the liver and attacks the red blood cells. This leads to many symptoms, including fever and shaking chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, headaches, bloody stools and convulsions. If untreated, malaria can lead to life-threatening complications such as kidney/liver organ failure, cerebral malaria, and pulmonary edema.
Dengue Fever is caused by the Aedes mosquito and has four different strains of the virus. Symptoms include fever, severe frontal headaches, especially around the eyes, nausea, vomiting, and a rash. In addition to this, one may experience joint and muscle pain, as well as bleeding gums. Dengue has three different phases which include the febrile phase, the critical phase, and the recovery phase. The critical phase without fever is when one needs to be more careful. Treatment includes management of symptoms. Severe cases of dengue can lead to Dengue Haemorrhagic or Dengue Shock Syndrome.
This is considered the milder version of the Dengue Fever disease due to the likeness of its symptoms. Symptoms, however, appear earlier (3 – 7 days after infection) compared to Dengue Fever’s three to fifteen days. People infected by the Chikungunya virus show symptoms that include fever, headaches, joint swelling, muscle pain, and rashes. People usually recover in a week.
How to Protect Against Mosquito Bites
Wear Protective Clothing
Cover up and leave minimally exposed skin for the mosquitos to attack. When choosing colors, go for lighter shades as they are less visible to mosquitos, making one less vulnerable to the bites.
Use DEET products
Various forms of DEET products exist including sprays, lotions, and roll-ons that help repel mosquitos and other insects. The concentration of DEET in the product determines the duration of protection one will get. For example, a 7% DEET product will protect for up to two hours. So the key is reapplication.
Mosquito Coils / Liquid Vaporizers
Burning mosquito coils is the traditional way of repelling mosquitos. You can use this in the absence of a reliable DEET lotion or spray and if you are not allergic to its smell. Mosquito coils, however, are only advisable for outdoor use. In most hotels and resorts they will provide electric liquid vaporizers that you plug into a power socket, which work just as effectively.
Mosquitos zero in on their target based on sweat and body temperature, so it is advised always maintain hygiene and take frequent showers in a warmer, humid climate to avoid unnecessary attraction.
Be Cautious and Aware
Always close the doors and windows to prevent mosquitos from coming indoors. Recognize the common mosquito breeding grounds such as undisturbed water/construction sites with gutters and standing bodies of water and encourage the hotel/resort management to eliminate such places.
Even with all the protection, if one is unlucky enough to get bitten by a mosquito or worse, get one of the diseases, it is best to recognize the signs and symptoms early on and get treatment. Most of the diseases are self-limiting and can be managed in the comfort of your home or hotel.
(Source: Maldive Island, June 2018, Issue 06)