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Don't Rush Me


From the suckee to the sucker: Scram!


New mosquito threat spreads in Michigan



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August 04, 2010 - We media types love (with a capitol LOVE) it when a "new" disease is discovered somewhere in the world. It has probably been that way since the beginning of the modern era of journalism. When I first tried my hand at writing "Don't Rush Me" (about a quarter-century ago) the "newest" disease was AIDS.

There was no 24-hour news cycle as there is now. There were no instant news blogging internet sites like there are now. Information dissemination moved snaillike compared to how fast we get news today. I remember folks were actually concerned they could contract (do you contract it?) AIDS by the bite of an infected mosquito. I even penned a column on it.

That AIDS is transmitted from mosquito to human was proven false, but a few facts were true.

1. Mosquitoes suck the blood of people.

2. Mosquitoes sometimes can pass on diseases to people. Heck, we've known that forever.

Not too many years ago, the West Nile Virus was the all the rage -- and some folks got sick and even died because of a mosquito "bite."

All had been quite on the mosquito front for a few years. Some years the suckers were out in force; other years there was nary a nibble. So, I was rather bummed out to learn of another "new" mosquito warning issued. Yep, not only is there a bumper crop of mosquitoes this year, but state officials are telling us suckees living in Southeastern Michigan, to be on the lookout for symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV).

I love Michigan in the summer.

So, for civic duty's sake, here's what to expect of EEEV, as reported by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).

" . . . transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare illness in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Most cases occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. Most persons infected with EEEV have no apparent illness. Severe cases of EEE (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma.

"EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors.

"There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms. You can reduce your risk of being infected with EEEV by using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and staying indoors while mosquitoes are most active. If you think you or a family member may have EEE, it is important to consult your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis."

Here are some other things mosquitoes are good for: Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, La Crosse Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria, St. Louis Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis and Yellow Fever (not to mention annoying, itchy bumps and buzzing around my ears whilst I'm trying to sleep).

Do you know what was the first effective treatment for malaria? Quinine. Do you know where you can find Quinine? Tonic water. While I am not a doctor, I recommend, at least for peace of mind, drinking lots of tonic water (add gin, if you so desire).

Here are some facts you may (or may not) want to know about skeeters.

n Mosquitos have successfully adapted to climates from the Arctic to the Equator.

n Some mosquitoes prefer frogs, others mammals, still others birds.

n No product, including mosquito traps, foggers, pesticides, Citronella candle, smoking coils or DEET, works equally well on every species of mosquito. (GREAT!)

n They also transmit heartworms to cats and dogs.

n Mosquitoes do not feed on blood. The female mosquito requires a blood meal for development of her eggs.

n Mosquito adults feed on flower nectar, juices, and decaying matter for flight energy.

n Mosquitoes don't see very well -- they zoom in like a heat-seeking missile. In the spherical arrangement of their compound eyes, blind spots separate each eye from the next one. As a result, they can't see you until they are 30 feet away. Even then, they have trouble distinguishing you from any object of similar size and shape like a tree stump or 55-gallon drum. When they are close they use extremely sensitive thermal receptors on the tip of their antennae to locate blood near the surface of the skin. The range of these receptors increases threefold when the humidity is high.

n There are over 170 species of mosquitoes in North America. Several species have been accidentally introduced from other parts of the world. The average life span of a female mosquito is three to 100 days. The male lives 10 to 20 days.

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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