Mosquito Patrol

The Ministerio de Salud (Health Department) paid us a visit yesterday. They were going house to house to check for standing water and to educate people on mosquito control.

The first time they did this was last October which made sense. It was the height of rainy season and the Zika virus was a big topic of conversation and worry. A very nice man walked around the yard, educated me about the dangers of standing water, and explained how he was doing all he could to teach people about controlling mosquitoes which helps prevent the diseases they carry.

My house was numbered #115 (nothing to do with #110 on the post in front, or #90 that has been scratched out. 115 is only for the health department records) He stuck a paper high on our laundry room door. (It’s looking a bit worse for wear after being out in the humidity for months.)

The paper says you are prohibited from destroying or damaging the paper, under threat of a fine.

Yesterday we had another visit from the health department. The lady marched right into the yard, turned over my gardening bucket, dumped out a glass of water we had next to the potted plants, signed the paper, and left. She said she had been out all day working in this hot sun though, and was trying to earn enough money to go to university so I can’t blame her for not wanting to hang around and chat.

It is the height of dry season now and I think I have seen one mosquito in the last two months. My “office” is outside on the terrace so I’m quite aware of what is flying around. Even in the rainiest part of the rainy season, I would see maybe 3-4 in an evening, usually around dusk, and rarely the aedes aegypti, the type that carries zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya.  They are easy to spot because they are larger and have the white bands on their legs (photo below from Wikipedia)

By Muhammad Mahdi Karim – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9556152

I am very surprised at how few mosquitoes there are here. Everywhere I have lived in the US has had enough mosquitoes that staying outside as dusk approaches is about impossible. I remember visiting the Florida Keys where a truck came around twice a week to spray, but swarms of mosquitoes started attacking as soon as dusk approached. Here, I have never seen mosquito spraying. It is possible that they spray and I have missed it, but I don’t think it has happened in my neighborhood because I spend a lot of time outside and notice who comes and goes.

We do have mosquito born diseases here though. The death rate of people building the canal was very high, and mostly from yellow fever. Today however, it is not a problem unless you go to the Darien and jungles of eastern Panama, where you are not supposed to be anyway.  (according to this CDC page here)  Malaria is also not considered a problem, except again in the Darien (it is carried by a different mosquito though, the Anopheles mosquito)

But, it is possible to get other diseases. There have been a few cases of Zika in Chiriqui according to the reports, though I don’t know anyone personally who has been affected or who knows of someone affected. Zika is usually a mild illness but it has been reported to cause birth defects, so pregnant women are advised to take all possible precautions.

Dengue is also possible, but again I don’t know anyone affected in this area. A friend in Pedasi got it a couple years ago though, and said there were quite a few cases there at that time. Dengue can make you very sick for quite a while. From what I understand, there are different varieties of dengue and you will be immune to the one you got, but if you get one of the others you maybe be sicker than you were the first time, and even develop dengue hemorrhagic fever which can be deadly.

There is also chikungunya, a very nasty illness. I haven’t heard of anyone in Panama getting it, though I know it is possible. Friends in Nicaragua and Ecuador have had it though, and suffered terribly with joint pain to the point that they needed help taking care of themselves at times, and the pain lasted for many months. Of course no one wants any of these illnesses, but chikungunya seems to have caused the most havoc to those I know who have gotten it.

So, that’s all I know about mosquitoes and mosquito born illnesses in this area. This is the rainy tropics for most of the year so I never expected so few mosquitoes. Maybe a thank you is in order to our lizards, birds, and bats for keeping the population down.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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24 Responses to Mosquito Patrol

  1. Evelyn Whitby says:

    Thanks so much for the info. We are hoping to spend the winter in El Valle this fall and winter so it is great to read your blog.

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  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    DENGUE is a serious mosquito-borne disease also known as “Breakbone Fever.” I had a go at it when I was on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala back in ’92. I’m telling you, even your eyelashes hurt. There’s nothing you can do about it except ride it out. They were having a cholera outbreak around there then and I had rehydration salts on board. I drank as much of the stuff as I could during lucid moments. It took about four days to get over it. For some reason I’d kept a couple pairs of pants that no longer fit me in my wardrobe and after the battle with dengue I had to TIE THEM ON!!! I haven’t listened to the station for a while, but CHT in Bugaba used to play a public service message three times an hour during the rainy season warning about the dangers of dengue and standing water.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a hell of a weight loss plan! I see lots of methods of educating people here also about standing water and disease carrying mosquitoes. They are certainly trying their best to keep us safe.

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  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    re: Mosquitos at dusk…I’ve never lived in a place where mosquitos thrive more than they do in the state of Louisiana. This is NOT joke, BUT there are three different kinds of mosquitos there. There are the kind that come storming out at dusk as most people are familiar with. There is also a breed that only comes out at dawn. And then there is the wonderful Salt March Mosquito that is out and about and feeding 24 hours a day!!!

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    • Aren’t they the state bird? or is that Missouri? or Arkansas? or any number of US states. The worst I’ve had was in northern Michigan. Those devils would leave welts the size of silver dollars! I can believe Louisiana is a total pain though, all that warm weather and water everywhere. How nice that you got 24/7 coverage… not! sheesh

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  4. Laureen says:

    I do know a couple of people who have gotten dengue here in the Lake Chapala área, but I don’t know of anyone who has gotten any of the other mosquito borne illnesses. I was also told that the mosquitos that carry the worrisome viruses are daytime feeders, not so much at night. That’s all I know about the mosquitos here in the Lake Chapala área of México.
    Thanks for the information Kris. It applies to us too.

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    • Good point! I also read that they are daytime feeders, and it seems like I see one occasionally when I am out gardening, not at night. I hope no one else gets dengue or any of the other nasty diseases in your area.

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  5. peggyjoan42 says:

    We have plenty of mosquitoes here in humid Arkansas. I come in before dusk – they love to eat me. Ha I am surprised you have so few in your area.

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    • Arkansas? where? I lived in Fayettville from 79 – 83. Beautiful area but coming from New York City, talk about culture shock! LOL Yes, I’n very surprised at the lack of mosquitoes here too, especially since we’re on the edge of town next to a woods and a river.

      Liked by 1 person

      • peggyjoan42 says:

        Searcy, Arkansas in the country. Fayettville is pretty, but they get a lot more bad storms in that area and are too cold for me in the winter. It is culture shock to move here. I am a Western U.S. gal, but married an Arkie and here I am. Ha

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        • Ahh ok, I see you on the map. I’m trying to remember if I went through that part of the state. Probably so, but was a long time ago.

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          • peggyjoan42 says:

            Searcy gets hit by a lot of bad storms – it happened last night in the middle of the night. Damage about 4 miles from my house, but no deaths. If you went to Lt. Rock you probably went through the Searcy area.

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            • I took my nursing boards in Little Rock so I probably did come through Searcy. I remember at that time there was a big snowstorm. Sorry about your storms and I hope things are more peaceful from now on, but unfortunately spring is just getting started.

              Liked by 1 person

  6. I noticed the state bird joke-thats what they say here in Minnesota 🙂
    again with the bugs!!!

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  7. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    the Panama Canal was one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels. However, the eradication of mosquito borne disease was what made the canal possible. Dr. Gorgas gets most of the credit for eliminating yellow fever and malaria from Panama but it was Dr. Carlos Finlay of Cuba who made the connection between the diseases and mosquitoes.
    Dallas and Tarrant counties where Dallas and Fort Worth are have about the same population as Panama but every year we see more mosquito related illness than Panama. Panama still has an obsession with eliminating mosquitoes, and that is a good thing.
    jim

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    • Yes, I have read about the history of the canal, and how it was critical to manage the mosquitoes and yellow fever.

      What do you have in Dallas and Fort Worth?! My sister lives in Dallas and I never hear about mosquito borne illnesses from her. We heard a bit in Florida, mostly West Nile.

      I’ve done some googling after a conversation. It seems the aedes mosquitoes are all over the southern US, but no matter where you are from the US doesn’t require any vaccinations to enter the country. I know many don’t have vaccinations, but they could at least ask for yellow fever if you are traveling from high risk areas. All it takes is one sick person and one mosquito to set things in motion.

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    • jim and nena says:

      Here is the best info:
      http://dallascityhall.com/departments/codecompliance/mosquitocontrol/Pages/default.aspx
      West Nile is the primary threat, and the most serious for older folks. Forty years of traveling to Panama and the worst danger from mosquitoes is in my own yard. That jest ain’t right! Ha ha

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  8. Cathy Virgenock says:

    Thos was a good post. Thanks. I hope people are.putting up bat boxes, that wouldl help quite a bit.

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  9. The only place I saw mosquitoes while I was there was in the jungle on our walk over the mountain.

    Nick

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    • Surprising, isn’t it. You were on the edge of town too, close to farmland so if they were around they could have found you.
      Did you make it back home OK? I hope it isn’t too chilly up there!

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