My myriad mosquital maladies
Malaria is easy. Everybody gets malaria. And zika, that’s assumed now too after all the press coverage. Then if you’ve traveled you’ve heard of dengue, and probably chikungunya too, even if you’re not sure which one is “bone-break fever.” Maybe both?
But hiking through the Guyanese jungle with health volunteers from the Peace Corps allowed me to learn about such new friends as filariasis and leishmaniasis, though nobody’s quite sure how to spell that second one. (Let me help you: don’t google it. Just don’t.)
I’m a big fan of knowledge, but as I looked down at the mosquito and sand flea bites speckled up my legs and hands, satellite camps on my ribs, I wondered how necessary this info really was.
For example, did I need to know that it takes years for filariasis’s gift of elephantiasis to show up? That right there is a gift that’ll keep on giving for a while.
Or leishmaniasis. As the sand fleas nibbled the tops and bottoms of my feet, did I need to know that they cause skin ulcers described as a sort of localized leprosy? Or that treatment involves scooping out those sections of yourself that are infected?
I don’t know that this knowledge is particularly useful to have. Nor did I really need to know how many bites I had, so it was okay that it got hazy around the 200 mark.
What IS useful is a deep gratitude to live in a place as intensely benign as North America (at present, because give climate change a chance and these babies will join our party too).
So I’m going to add that to my back burner of daily gratitude. As I go get a big glass of delicious and safe tap water, ponder biking around my (relatively) safe town, and consider which of the historically unprecedented array of tempting foods to lunch on just because I like the taste, I will take a minute to look at the absence of a cloud of infectious mosquitoes buzzing around my ankles, and give thanks.
Then I’ll send a wish of well-being for all the Peace Corps volunteers who gave up these privileges in order to hopefully help some people who never had them. Those people are heroes. Doing our nation proud. For some reason I desperately need to focus on that right now.