Monsoon, mosquitoes and maladies-what a deadly trio! It’s not just the shower of relief from grueling heat that comes with monsoon but, there are some additional bonuses, such as stagnant water, muddy puddles, water logged roads, overflowing drains, etc. Woah! It’s like an annual pool party arrangement for mosquitoes with free drinks. What these uninvited and irritating guests (mosquitoes) gift us in return are painful bites, welts, rashes and diseases. One of such mosquito-gifted diseases is Chikungunya. But what is it and why should we be concerned about it?
- What is Chikungunya?
- How to Protect Yourself from Chikungunya?
- Ways to Prevent Mosquitoes from Breeding
- Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Infographic: To Protect Chikungunya
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a viral disease caused by the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and is transmitted through the bite of an infected female mosquito- primarily the daytime biting of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It takes 3-12 days after the mosquito bite to develop symptoms, such as fever, severe joint pain, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, and rash. Most of these symptoms subside upon treatment, however, the swelling and severe pain in joints and muscles may last longer than a year and thereby badly affects the quality of life. Other complications that may persist includes eyes, gut, nerves and heart problems.
Currently, no antiviral cure is available against this disease. The treatment strategy being followed is to provide supportive care of symptoms. What’s alarming is that a 390% increase in chikungunya cases has been observed in India between 2014-2016, which continues to increase in subsequent years. So, the disease prevention strategy is the only protective measure against the disease. But how?
How to Protect Yourself from Chikungunya?
Female Aedes mosquito breeds in stagnant water and has a life span of 2 weeks – 1 month. It is active particularly around dawn and dusk. It can be spotted easily through the unique white markings on its legs and other body parts. However, catching the criminal to prevent the crime is very impractical in this case. Presently, two approaches are being followed for the protection against chikungunya:
- Preventing mosquitoes from breeding
- Avoiding mosquito bites
Let’s get into the details of these approaches.
Ways to Prevent Mosquitoes from Breeding
Broadly there can be three major approaches to prevent mosquitoes from breeding as described below:
1. By Preventing the Water to Stagnate
Stagnant water is the primary ground for mosquito breeding. The Aedes mosquito completes most of its life cycle, starting from eggs to full grown adult via intermediate larval stage, in water. Below are some ways to avoid water to stagnate in and around homes and workplaces:
- Anything in which rainwater can settle, such as old tyres, bottles, tins, coconut shells, plastic containers, etc. should be discarded properly.
- One can punch holes at bottom of tin containers prior disposing these in garbage.
- Avoid excess-watering to the potted plants and keep saucers placed below the flower-pots dry.
- Items that collect water should be emptied weekly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
- The baths for birds and pets should be cleaned regularly.
- Make sure to check and repair the water leakages if any.
- Maintain proper drainage for the condensed water from air conditioners.
2. By Killing the Mosquitoes
No root no fruit. Various methods that can be adopted to kill mosquitoes or its larvae to prevent mosquito breeding are as follows:
- Mass fogging or fumigation to kill mosquitoes inhabiting a locality.
- Spraying insecticides to the areas harboring mosquitoes near homes and other structures using backpack applicators.
- Using UV lit mosquito traps that attract and electrocute mosquitoes.
- Spraying larvicidal agents such as Methoprene, mineral based larvicides etc. onto the places hard to reach or larger water bodies, such as ponds.
- Using Larvicidal fish (gambusia, guppy) in the garden ponds.
- Applying the bacterial insecticide (Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis; Bti) to the areas of standing water, water-holding containers and stagnant pools.
- Other methods include mosquito coils, mosquito killing vaporizers, etc.
3. By Deterring the Mosquito from Invading
Other ways that can be used to deter mosquitoes are as follows:
- Regularly cleaning the water tanks, pools and desert coolers.
- Adding fountain, waterfall or aerator to your garden ponds will agitate the water surface.
- Installing bird houses or bat houses in the gardens will encourage predators of the mosquitoes to visit your yard.
- Eliminating the litter and garbage from the surroundings
- Keeping the open drains and gutters clean as well as cover them if possible.
Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites
Female Aedes mosquitoes require human blood proteins and iron to produce eggs. They use their mouthparts to pierce human skin and suck blood. In doing so, they not only cause itchy, painful bumps but also, transmit disease causing CHIK virus from one being to another. So, thwarting these tiny criminals from biting is another approach to prevent the spread of the disease. Various approaches to avoid mosquito bites are as follows:
4. By Adopting Mosquito Repelling Methods
Various means of repelling mosquitoes are as follows:
- Applying an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol, onto your skin sparing cuts and open wounds.
- Planting insect repelling herbs, such as marigold, lemongrass, citronella, peppermint, catnip, sage, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender etc. in your garden, workplace and homes can also be helpful
5. By Covering Up
Clothing can also help in preventing mosquito bites. Below are a few tips:
- Wearing long sleeved shirts or tops with pants or pajamas or full-length lowers and socks.
- Spraying an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent containing permethrin onto the clothes will provide extra protection.
- Mosquitoes are attracted towards darker shades and so, light colored clothes will lessen the number of mosquitoes being attracted to you.
6. By Barricading the Mosquito Entry Points
One of the ways to prevent mosquito bites is to refrain from these tiny unwanted guests to enter your premises. Some of the ways to do so are listed below:
- Screen doors, windows, vents, chimneys, outlets and inlets of overflow pipes at your home and workplaces.
- Rest or sleep in a screened or air-conditioned room.
- Make sure that any water storage tanks are properly secured with lids or screens and the inlet and outlet pipes connecting to these are sealed.
- Periodically check the meshes of the overflow and air exhaust pipes for tears and holes.
- Drain out water from the places where the water accumulated temporarily after raining and fill the low-lying areas prone to water accumulation.
- Keep the doors and windows closed, especially during dawn and dusk.
- Use mosquito nets to cover your bed or sleeping area.
7. By Avoiding Potential Risk Zones
Despite incorporating the above mentioned ways, one cannot completely negate the possibility to encounter mosquitoes. But yes, one can resist traveling to areas with high risk of it. If possible, avoid going out, especially during early morning or evening which are the peak times for encountering mosquitoes.
Ensuring your protection from tiny bugs of the monsoon is the best way to deal with chikungunya, in consideration to the symptomatic treatment available. Be safe to enjoy the shower of nature.
Infographic: To Protect Chikungunya