Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting to know the mosquito

I try to get to know the mosquito who. long dead and decomposing, has caused  me and so many others  lives to be turned upside down.

She ( the female is the one who sucks your blood ) so I know she was a mother; a mother who needed to fill her abdomen with fresh blood in order to feed her young.

Here she is.  The mosquito that causes yellow fever, malaria, dengue and the virus I got; chikungunya. 

Her relatives, all 3500 species, cause 700,00 to a million deaths each year in mostly young children.
She is known as the anophiles mosquito.; aedes aegypti.  Mosquito means small fly in Spanish.

I think of her being born in the small cave across from the clinic; a hole with large rocks where garbage is thrown.  It is a perfect place to be laid and turn into a grown mosquito.  Her along with some 500 brothers and sisters floated there in an egg based raft.  There they could survive in dry times, waiting for the rains that would come and set them free.  There she hatched into a larvae and wiggled and wiggled changing her skin four times, swimming and diving before merging into a pupa stage for a quiet day of rest and fasting before emerging as a grown mosquito.  Did she rest there letting her body harden before making her way to a rock where she let her wings dry in the sun.  She would not live long but longer than the boys who hatched with her.  She had a few weeks but they only had a few days to mate and carry on the cycle.

There beside the limestone rocks she found her mate and began to grow her own young.  I could not have been her first tasty meal of blood.  She had to have sucked blood from someone else with chickungunya.  Others would suck blood from a person infected with malaria or dengue.   It was all being exchanged from person to mosquito all around us.  Her small wings flapped 500 times in a second.  This might have warned me but we were all talking and laughing.  It was afternoon but never mind.  She did not wait for evening as some mosquitoes.   Afternoon was fine.  She needed blood to complete the life cycle; her life purpose.

When she landed on me, she acted quickly, inserting her flexible mouth tube into my skin. It bent searching for a vein to get blood from and releasing the infected salavia into my system.  She neither filled her abdomen or lived to lay her eggs.  Swat.  A young child's hand reached out and smacked her, blood smeared on my leg and their hand.

Had she been sucessful, she could hve flown back to he edge of the same pool and laid her own eggs or waited a few more days for another blood meal.

Though she dies, the virus was busy finding cells to enter inside my body and beginning its task of reproduction.  For the next week if another mosquito bit me, I passed on the virus to the new mosquito who in turn gave it to another person. All over Haiti and the Caribbean this cycle was being duplicated in a rising epedemic.

My immune system, unaccustomed to the virus, had to create a way of attacking the problem.  As I continued to do trainings and prepare for the mobile clinics, a war was taking place in my body.  I had  come to do a very specific task and had created a schedule that I had hoped would result in the greatest benefit.  I had hoped it would set the stage to prevent death and disability in the mountains.

But I, like hundreds of thouands of people around the world would be stopped in my tracks by the same species of mosquito that caused yellow fever, malaria, dengue and now chickungunya.   Twenty four hours after the blood feast, I headed to town. The driver was sick; crazy sick.   We were all spreading it, from ignorance and poor diagnostic skill, passing the virus from one to another through the mosquito.

My personal mosquito was dead but the effect of her blood meal was gaining speed and power within me.

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