The Random Writings of Rachel: Thankful for Pesticides

Thankful for Pesticides

Mosquito fogging trucks and men in suits that look like they were made for space travel surround our apartment complex and pump clouds of mosquito-killing fog into the air. The fog smells as toxic as it is, and when the trucks are coming, we try to either leave the apartment complex first, or else we have to hole ourselves up inside a room with all the windows closed and the cracks under the door stuffed with towels to prevent the poisonous air from leaking in. Mosquito fogging happens once every month or so--more often when dengue cases are reported from our apartment complex.

In a world that's all for being all-natural, it's living in a country where mosquito-borne illnesses are a real and deadly threat that makes me grateful for chemical defense against the insects that are so pervasive here.

Dengue fever was, for me, anyway, once something that I read about on one of the cards in the game Worst Case Scenarios. Now, it's a disease that has affected more than a dozen people I know personally here--a disease that sends healthy adults to the hospital, wracked with pain and fever. Thankfully, it can be treated, but there's no guarantee of living through dengue unscathed.

Dengue isn't the only mosquito-borne illness over here. Thankfully, we don't live in an area where malaria is a problem, but chikungunya, another fever which appears similar to dengue, landed my little sister Rebekah in the hospital for nearly a week about six years ago.


My family has always been very vigilant about mosquito exposure. When we first moved, we slept under mosquito nets. Eventually, my parents opted to pay for screens to be installed on all the windows in our rented home, as that would offer us mosquito protection during the day as well. We made sure never to water our plants too generously, as any standing water turns into an instant breeding ground for mosquitoes here. We laid in a good supply of bug repellents and weren't allowed to go out to the park or other known places where mosquitoes were bad without them. We wore jeans and tennis shoes when hiking in the rainforest to prevent bug bites on our legs. The little girls had to come home from friends' unscreened houses before dark when the bugs got bad.

It's been interesting, using so many strategies to try to prevent mosquito bites--to remember to view them as not just as the causes of itchy little bites, but as insects that can potentially cause very serious disease. The youngest person I've known to be hospitalized for dengue wasn't even 2 years old...the oldest was well over 60. Those mosquitoes don't discriminate, and it's impossible to totally guard against them in this climate. Many people have visible scars left by mosquito bites. I wish we could ask these insects politely to please not bite us, but that doesn't work, so in the meantime, I'm grateful for mosquito fogging trucks.

{This is Day 26 of my 31 Days Series: 31 Days of Growing up in Malaysia}

17 comments:

  1. That's crazy, we forget the serious diseases mosquitoes can carry. I have extreme allergic reaction to mosquito bites so I am very wary of places that is very mossy and humid where potential bites and exposure can occur. Glad your sister was OK and hopefully no one else falls ill around you. As much as we fight against pesticide use here, sometimes we forget the good they do serve. Have a great one Rachel! Take Care -Iva

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  2. It's definitely a situation where you CAN'T say "that'll never happen to me." wow.

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  3. It's not easy, I live in Puerto Rico and there are mosquitoes every time!!! - Take care and thanks for sharing this!

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  4. I think this goes for a lot of pesticide-type things (or at least it could - I haven't looked into it)... it sounds like such an evil word, and maybe that's why we immediately have a bias against pesticides. Yet, as in this case, the result of not using them might be so much worse!

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  5. Make sure you look after yourself over there. It sounds like you have no choice but to use pesticides.

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  6. Oh wow, that is so scary! Thank goodness for pesticides is right. Stay safe.

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  7. This is a little unsettling as I woke up with a huge mosquito bite on my neck this morning, haha. I am very thankful you have pesticides to help protect you. In situations like these, the benefits far outweigh any possible risk, in my opinion. They've been spraying here for West Nile, but that's not nearly as frightening as Dengue Fever.

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  8. I'm always intrigued by people who are so quick to jump on their soapbox and list off all the ways pesticides are bad. Realistically though the world isn't that black & white and certainly in the case of mosquitos the pesticides are no doubt saving lives!

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  9. I think many people forget what illnesses plagued the earth WITHOUT pesticides. Death rates were so much higher and we should be grateful. Especially in countries where disease is spread through insects, like where you are. I worked for an agency that did marketing for the large pesticide and animal immunization companies and those companies were constantly thrown under the bus. What people don't realize, is that many of those "animal immunizations" are simply just medicine to keep the animals healthy, nothing more. In the same way we take our medicines to ward of illness. Good reminder, Rachel!

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  10. This is so scary! This is something people don't widely know and the different side of pesticides. Hoping all is good and safe!

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  11. Wow. So interesting. It's nice to see a different perspective out here on the interwebs- I believe that most pesticides, used correctly, are a benefit!

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  12. Atlanta is registered as the worse place in the US for mosquitoes, but we're lucky that we don't have many cases of diseases from it. It is often very humbling to see the things we don't have to deal with or forget happen because they become less common in developed countries. It is nice to see this perspective!

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  13. Yikes! I'm all for that unnatural stuff when it prevents hospitalization and misery! I wore this crazy poisonous bug spray when I was working in the Caribbean-- it was called Jungle Juice, 99% DEET. Horrible stuff, but effective. Bugs died when they crawled up to my leg.

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  14. It is really easy to forget the purpose behind certain chemicals. We just have to determine if the pros out way the cons and in your case it is necessary.

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  15. I can't imagine having to live with this fear. I'm prone to mosquito bites for some reason. I mean like I am always the person with the most mosquito bites. Growing up I'd come home from bible camp with my arms and legs literally covered in bites when my friends only had 3 or 4. And nothing ever seemed to help. I tried sprays, dryer sheets, the little fans you clip on your belt. They always seemed to get through. So I would probably have been in the hospital several times already by now. Yikes.

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  16. That is a terrible fear to have to live with.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  17. Although I firmly believe that pesticides need to be used prudently, they should always be used when public health is at stake.

    Mosquitoes, fleas and ticks come to mind. As do black widow spiders—except of course you end up killing good spiders if you use pesticides.

    It is a big world out there and things are so different from the United States. Thank you for your insight.

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