Sunday, March 26, 2017

FIGHTING MOSQUITOES: Preventing the Spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, & Zika

We Had Chikungunya in 2015; Now We are on a Mission to Fight Mosquitoes and Mosquito Bites!

Aedes aegypti Mosquito Transmits Chikungunya & Dengue viruses
     We've all heard about Zika. But what about Chikungunya and Dengue? All three of these viral infections are spread by mosquitoes in many parts of the world. The Aedes mosquitoes, when infected with Chikungunya or Dengue viruses can transmit these illnesses to people through mosquito bites. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), local transmissions of these viruses have been reported throughout the Americas, including Mexico. The CDC also reports that mosquitoes infected with Zika virus are in Mexico and spreading it to people. There are two ways to battle the spread of these viral illnesses. First, minimize the reproduction of mosquitoes. Secondly, prevent mosquito bites to minimize the transmission of the virus and spread of the infection.
Ready for Our First Christmas, the Exterior Wall was So Pretty

     It happened the first week in December 2015, a week after we moved into our casita (little house) in Mexico. Jon spent an afternoon scrubbing the exterior of our garden wall so it would be nice and clean when he put up the Christmas lights. They looked so pretty and we were excited about spending our first Christmas in "paradise". 
     The next morning Jon awoke stiff and sore, his joints aching, and he thought he had just overdone it with his wall-scrubbing the day before. The following day, he didn't get out of bed, the pain and fever were debilitating. I kept him supplied with ibuprofen, chicken broth, and purified drinking water. (We later learned that acetaminophen is the pain reliever of choice until Dengue fever can be ruled out, in order to avoid internal bleeding.) For the next week, he rarely got out of bed. From internet research, I determined that Jon probably had either Dengue Fever or Chikungunya, both transmitted by mosquitoes. Had he been bitten while working around the garden plants? He hadn't noticed any mosquitoes and didn't find any bites, but it was the logical conclusion that one of the tiny mosquitoes that carry Chikungunya had gotten him. Was our beautiful garden and the nearby jungle to blame for bringing mosquitoes to our new home?
Was Our Beautiful Garden to Blame?

     Getting up to go to the bathroom was a major ordeal because his ankles and the joints in his feet seemed to be affected the most. Standing up wasn't too bad, but walking was excruciatingly painful. We had learned that this is one common symptom of Chikungunya, so we self-diagnosed the illness. The inflammation and stiffness (arthritis) in the feet was so painful that he walked with a flat-footed shuffle, as though the ankles and feet couldn't flex. We named this duck-like way of walking the "Chikungunya Shuffle", and tried to laugh about it to lighten our moods.
     I wasn't laughing any longer when I developed the same symptoms a week later. The joint pain was right up there with the level of a childbirth contraction, except it didn't let up, even while taking 800mg of ibuprofen every 8 hours. The itchy rash on my torso was just an annoyance compared to the joint pain. Thank goodness, Jon had mostly recovered and could now take care of me.
Was the Jungle Next to Our Yard Bringing Mosquitoes?

     I was probably bitten by a mosquito that had first bitten Jon, thereby transferring the virus to me. The typical incubation period for Chikungunya is 3 to 7 days but can be up to 12 days. The worst of my symptoms lasted about 10 days, through Christmas. I'm not a whiner, but this was miserable. At one point, I had the energy to go to the kitchen to make my own chicken broth. I squatted down to pick up the soup pan on the bottom shelf and my legs would not work to push myself upright again. I hung on to the edge of the counter and called for Jon to come help me. Once he hauled my body upright, I could stand and shuffle well enough to make my soup.
Was Our Little Water Fountain Breeding Mosquitoes?
      After a week, I had just enough energy to sit in front of my computer and begin researching mosquitoes and three of the viruses they carry, Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, and Zika. I was glad to learn that once you've had Chikungunya, you are unlikely to contract it again. Some people contract it and don't have symptoms. According to the CDC, the same type of mosquito transmits both Chikungunya and Dengue Fever and they bite day and night. But what had brought the mosquito to our yard? December is during the dry season, so there aren't many mosquitoes in the area. I wondered if our little water feature was attracting them or giving them a place to lay their eggs. The pump kept the water moving which is supposed to discourage mosquito breeding. Plus, I added bleach to the water periodically. But, I wasn't taking any chances. I had Jon dismantle the water fountain and empty the water. (Interestingly, after a year, that did not change the number of mosquitoes in the area, so we put it back up. We enjoy the sound of the softly trickling water and I believe it brings birds to our yard.)
     By New Years Eve, my Chikungunya Shuffle only appeared during the night when I got up to walk to the bathroom. But my energy level was still so low, we couldn't go out to celebrate New Year's Eve. A year-and-a-half later, I still have residual stiffness in my feet during the night and slight arthritis in a few joints, though possibly that is related to age (let's just say neither of us is 59 any longer). Jon and I both started taking Glucosamine 1500mg with Chondroitin 1200mg twice daily to battle the arthritis (joint inflammation). After six weeks, the arthritis began to improve so we continue to take it daily! I can teach Zumba in Sayulita with no arthritis problems!
Battling with a Battery Operated Mosquito Zapper
Now, we battle mosquitoes aggressively! 
Mosquitoes are not a major problem in Sayulita, but they do exist. If everyone uses precautions against the multiplication of mosquitoes and prevents mosquito bites, we will reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Here are the things we are doing to help prevent mosquito bites and mosquito reproduction, thereby helping prevent the spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and Zika. Battling mosquitoes and their bites will help prevent the spread of all three of these illnesses. The CDC does advise against women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant to travel to areas of Mexico below the elevation of 6500 feet because mosquitos infected with Zika virus do exist there. (Check the CDC World Map for updated information.) 
1. Mosquito Racket Zappers-two of them, one in the bathroom, one near the kitchen since mosquitoes are attracted to the moisture in these rooms. Who needs to have a Wii-Tennis set-up? Just clear the house of mosquitoes each night before bedtime after closing the doors and windows for a little fun and exercise! We did learn that in this humid climate, these racket zappers only last for about a year before they corrode and stop zapping. A hand towel slapped at the wall when the mosquito lands works, too.
Aspectek Electric Bug Zapper
2. Electric Indoor Bug Zappers made by Aspectek®-we have two of these and they work great! We keep one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom at the opposite side of the house. Since we keep the doors of our casita open all day, these zappers do most of their work in the evening when we close the doors. They attract and then zap mosquitoes and flies, but leave the ants alone while they work to clean up the debris. Available from Amazon, the Aspectek Electronic Bug Zapper  is rated as safe and easy to clean. 
Jon Installed a Mini-Split AC for the Bedroom
3. Installed a Mini-Split air conditioner in the bedroom for those hot, humid months of June and July when the mosquito population increases. We are able to close the doors and windows and sleep comfortably knowing the bedrooms are free of mosquitoes. This helps prevent bites and spreading diseases. Otherwise, sleep under mosquito nets.
Jon Installed a New Fan When One Quit Working
4. Ceiling Fans in all rooms and on the outdoor patio keep the air moving and help keep mosquitoes from landing on us.
5. Seal cracks and use window screens: sealing around the exterior bathroom door with backer rod and putting screens in the windows helps prevent mosquitoes from coming in to search for water and humans to bite.
Ultrathon 12-hr Insect Repellent
6. Use mosquito repellent day and night when outdoors. Preventing mosquito bites prevents spreading diseases they carry. The CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents containing higher percentages of DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE, also called para-menthane-diol [PMD]), IR3535, or 2-undecanone (methyl nonyl ketone). Always use as directed and check safety in children under 9 years old. We use Off spray or lotion usually and switch to Ultrathon 12-hour cream when needed for all day protection against mosquito bites.
EDIT: We finally tried Skin So Soft from Avon after hearing for years how well it works. IT WORKS! We ordered it from Amazon*mx.
Changing a Flat Roof to a Sloped Roof so Water Doesn't Pool
7. Fixed the "flat" roof so it now slopes and will drain after it rains. What a puzzle for Jon to solve and what a nasty job for the Mexican man who fixed our roof, but he was a good, hard worker! Glad we got it done before the rain came so we don't have a mosquito larvae-filled swimming pool up there. 
8. Drill extra drain holes in all pots with potted plants so rain water doesn't pool.
Store Buckets Upside Down so They Don't Collect Rain Water
9. Eliminate any standing water: buckets left turned upside down to prevent collection of rain water, sweep patio upstairs after rain, pushing puddled water to the drain so the surface will dry.
10. Take B-100 (or thiamine 100mg which is Vitamin B-1) daily, to help prevent bites which then helps prevent the spread of diseases. Mosquitoes don't like the smell of thiamine secreted from our skin and are less likely to bite.
11. If you develop symptoms of Dengue Fever or Chikungunya, take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by a mosquito. If a mosquito bites you when you are ill with the virus, then it bites another person, it will spread the virus to that person.
12. Encourage bats and dragonflies to patrol at night since they eat mosquitoes and other insects. Bat populations decline when pesticides are used in the yard, so we do not fumigate or spray the air in the garden with insecticides. Bats can eat up to 600 mosquitoes per hour. We enjoy watching the bats swoop through our yard after sunset, knowing they are cleaning up the insects. Putting up a bat house and planting certain plants will attract bats to your yard.
Change Water in Vases Every Day or Two to Prevent Larvae

13. Change the water in flower vases every day or two. Even two inches of water in the bottom is enough to allow mosquito larvae to hatch. I also add a few drops of bleach to the water which seems to help.
Drip Irrigation Lines to & All Plants Prevents Pooling Water

14. I installed a drip irrigation system to water all pots and plants slowly so the water soaks into the soil, preventing pools of standing water.
15. Empty the dog's water dish every day and refill it with fresh purified water. Mosquito eggs that may have been laid will be dumped before they can hatch into larvae.
16. Allow geckos to live in the house (like we have a choice). They eat mosquitoes.
Burn Raid Mosquito Repellent Coils in the Evenings

17. We Burn Mosquito Coils in the evenings when we sit outside after dark to repel the insects. EDIT: We don't do this any longer after reports of harmful effects.
18. Wear long pants and sleeves in the evening to help prevent bites.
19. Mosquito Dunks in my water feature and flower vases. One of my readers just told me about this item and I am very excited about it! a Dunk can be dropped in standing water to kill mosquito larvae before they hatch into mosquitoes. Each Dunk lasts 30 days. Available at
20. Plants that repel mosquitoes: I received this from one of my readers and had to add it, it's such a great idea! Here is the link: 6-mosquito-repellent-plants-keep-pests-away
     Traveling to and living in Mexico is fun. Don't let the mosquitoes keep you from visiting or moving here. If you come prepared to protect yourself against mosquito bites, especially during the rainy season, then there is a minimal risk (unless you are a pregnant woman or might become pregnant). The rainy season in the state of Nayarit where we live starts in June and lasts into November. The rain is warm, though, and usually comes at night, clearing the air by morning, leaving everything fresh and clean.  Even the rainy season is beautiful here, just more warm and humid!
Sign Up For "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico"
Newsletter By Clicking: Reader List Sign-Up

     For more information on healthy living and traveling in Mexico, take a look at my two eBooks:
Available on Amazon; click HERE

Available on Amazon; Click HERE

Terry L Turrell, Author


  1. I share your pain! I had Dengue about sixteen months ago and still suffer because of it. My fever was so high I passed out. Ever since, I have had problems with dizziness and light-headedness. I even had to use a can for several months.
    I also use Mosquito Dunks anywhere there is standing water. I toss it freely in any water in my neighborhood. I also broke down and got a mosquito net.

    1. Emilie, I'm sorry that you are still have residual symptoms from Dengue. This helps to point out how important it is for people to help limit the spread of these mosquito-borne viruses.
      Thank you so much for telling me about Mosquito Dunks! I was not aware of their existence. This is such a good idea, I am going to edit my blog to add this idea.
      Best wishes with your healing.

  2. What's a mosquito 'dunk'? Is it one of those tablets that you put in standing water to kill larvae? if so where can we buy them we live in La Penita

    1. Yes! Where in La Penita do you buy Mosquito Dunks? Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog, Suzanne!

  3. Best bug blog of the bunch. I doubt there were ever any bugs. Or white outs or cold weather. You people are just being radically fear spreading to keep us wuss prone people away. ;-)

    1. Hi Harold,
      Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it helped spread the word about preventing the spread of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illness, not fear of traveling to Mexico. We love living in Mexico!