(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)
While everyone back home was worried over ebola during our trip, insects were my primary concern, specifically mosquitoes. Malaria killed 70 times more people in Africa last year than Ebola although the former preventable if we just got rid of most of the mosquitoes that carry it the way we have in the US. I’m digressing, though, and don’t want to get on a soapbox.
Mosquitoes come in various shapes and sizes, and all sorts of rumors abound about these insects. I’ve heard the large ones are female and don’t bite. Was told the buzzing one that gave me a terrible night’s sleep wasn’t the right kind. How did that parasite get under my blanket and why is s/he so intent on scoring blood from my ear lobe?
We prepared the best way we knew how with medication to prevent malaria. Start taking it before the trip as directed, best at same time each day during the trip, and keep taking it two weeks after homecoming. It takes at least that long to let go of the worry that you’ll begin to show the flu-like symptoms.
My niece is a mosquito magnet and slightly allergic. Once when she was small and spent about 30 minutes playing outside with the hose, she came in with dozens of welts from bites just on her short arms and legs. Outside at the same time, I had none. So I wanted her to have the best anti-malarial, malarone, which is more expensive but only needed 2 days before, 7 days after, and doesn’t make your skin sun sensitive.
My husband took piles of doxycycline during his army deployments with no (known) ill effect, and mefloquine was my choice on one previous Africa trip. Mefloquine gave me weird dreams, though, and according to my doctor, makes some people homicidal. Seriously? Still, you only have to take that one once a week.
For myself this trip, doxycycline was the choice with its proven track record for my system. Sure I was more likely to get sun damaged skin, but preventing that is old school. Medication wise, I also traveled with loperamide (in case the fruit or such struck me wrong) and ciprofloxacin (in case sickness really takes over). We also had up to date vaccinations for yellow fever, hep a, hep b, typhoid, and even rabies. That pup might be a stray, even so, you know I’m going to try to pet the cutie.
Back to insects. Although mosquitoes are the worst, there are others to think about. Perhaps to distract yourself, contemplate the Top 10 Deadliest Insects and note that the TseTse fly is a African native as is the Saifu (African ant). Seen those green grainy videos of ants attacking someone in their sleep? Probably was one of these. Made me grateful for our clean accommodations in my friends’ home. Note to self, no camping in Africa for me.
Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.