M y disgruntled uncle recently said that if the coronavirus was at least visible to the naked eyes, we could smash it with our bare hands, bringing the pandemic to an end. But our experience with another organism, the mosquito, which is at least a million times bigger than the virus, has proven us wrong. The mosquitoes are reasonably big, unmissable even for a person with cataract. It makes an annoyingly irritating buzzing sound near our ears audible even for an octogenarian hard of hearing. But it has managed to escape our "slaps and claps" and has been pestering us since time immemorial.
Globally, the mosquito and its dirty baggage (mosquito-borne diseases) affect 700 million people and kill one million every year. It has been a source of diseases and death for hundreds of years. It has been living on earth even before the humans appeared, as carbon studies date its existence from about 200 million years ago. One can remember the iconic scene in the Jurassic Park movie where a mosquito that has bitten a dinosaur gets embedded in tree sap.
Personally, I have been fighting a losing battle against this pest since my childhood. They say that the mosquito has a preference for people with O positive blood group, a certain bodily scent and warm skin, but it is a tragedy that despite being a cool A positive blood group person with regular usage of artificial scents, the mosquitoes have been drinking my blood since childhood. A rough unexaggerated mathematical estimate would amount to a hundred litres of blood in the past four decades of my suffering.
I have tried all types of combative measures. Even as a child, I made it a point to return home before sunset, which is the usual active time for mosquitoes. The doors and windows would be kept shut in our home. But still the odd few blood-thirsty ones would somehow squeeze themselves in, and start whizzing around my head. Whenever I look up, peep down or turn around to catch it, they always manage to stay out of my vision often making me wonder if I had paranoid delusions. But they would make me feel the reality with their periodic stings. As I used to scratch myself to blood-tinged skin abrasions and slaps at rhythmic intervals, my family members wondered if I suffered from self-inflictive anxiety disorders. Often serendipitously, I managed to crush a few mosquitoes and showed them the evidence. Needless to say, it involves extreme patience to catch a mosquito red-handed. One should maintain a petrified posture to the approaching, unsuspecting mosquito. Soon the hovering mosquito trusts you and lands itself on the warmest part of your skin with its front pair of legs. Without flinching a muscle, one should allow the unwary mosquito to puncture your skin with its proboscis at which time, it would keep its hind limbs down. This means that it is relaxing itself for a nice blood meal and this is the best time to give it a tight slap with guaranteed success rate.
Apart from locking myself inside the home, I had tried a wide variety of natural and artificial skin repellents which unfortunately kept more humans than mosquitoes away from me. Despite the tropical climate of my home town, I used to cover myself from head to toe. Often the presence of a mosquito in the restroom made my life worse and the experience cannot be explained here in sophisticated vocabulary. Even in the restrooms, the mosquitoes kept me restless. I have also used mosquito coils, mats and liquidators over the years but with only limited success.
The introduction of electrical repellents seemed like a blessing but soon my trust in them came crashing down one day when I saw two cavorting mosquitoes on top of the machine. Probably, the smell of the chemicals was intoxicating for them, stirring up their hormonal levels. The recent addition to my arsenal is the electric mosquito bats which I swish around me involuntarily during all activities of daily living. I should confess that the pleasant sound of the mosquito getting electrocuted is music to my ears. The male mosquitoes never bite and their sustenance relies on flower nectar only. It is only the female mosquitoes which are blood savvy as the blood proteins are essential for the survival of its eggs.
Whenever I travel to western countries, it is impressive to note that mosquitoes are rarely a problem there. In our country, the lack of sanitation and stagnation of water around living areas are a major source of mosquito breeding. Though mosquito bite is a painful, day-to-day problem for the common man, on a larger scale, it causes serious community health problems by serving as a vector of potentially fatal diseases such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, brain fever and Zika. The viruses live in the saliva of the mosquitoes and gets transferred to humans when bitten. My personal tryst with mosquitoes indicates that our efforts at avoiding bites are never going to succeed, and hence we should focus our efforts on improving the cleanliness of the environment and prompt reporting of mosquito-borne diseases to the health authorities.
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