Everybody knows that a trip to the Far East, Indonesia not Wexford, requires vaccination against various diseases and infections. Prior to my voyage east, my awareness of the severity of these illnesses was limited. I imagined that worst case scenario was a dose of vomiting and diarrhoea which would last a couple of days and while the sickness would obviously be unpleasant, it would result in a 3kg weight loss, every cloud.
My understanding became a little more focused when I forked out at the local doctors to receive the vaccinations, even at this stage I presumed that this was purely preventative and that during my stay in Jakarta I would not be encountering such diseases, viruses or infections. Now, just over six months into my stay in Jakarta, I have developed a better awareness of the possible disease and in particular the infections and viruses that are transmitted by mosquitos.
Mosquitos are a part of life in Indonesia, somehow the Indonesians don’t seem to get bitten as much as we long-noses, (as Indonesians kindly refer to us). Perhaps the bites just glow on our skin more, bright glowing red lumps, shining like a beacon for low-flying aircraft. Bringing along a crazy itch that is enough to drive you demented until three days later it subsides and you forget about mosquitos until they bite again. This to date was my personal experience with the unlikely looking offenders.
However, the severity of the viruses that these tiny creatures can cause becomes real when you meet the third person in as many days that has been seriously unwell due to diseases transmitted by mosquitos, namely, Dengue Fever & Chikungunya.
Dengue Fever is the most common and is spread by a type of infected mosquito called the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Commonly referred to as ‘dengue’ pronounced ‘dengi’, it’s the term that is bandied about, ‘oh, Mary won’t be here tonight, she has dengi’, or ‘Teresa is just over her dengi, she’ll be back next week’, as if Dengue was like a visit from the in-laws, but alas, it’s a lot worse. The symptoms include, a temperature as high as 41’c, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, bone muscle and joint pain. The symptoms can last for weeks and in some causes can be more severe resulting in bleeding and organ damage. It can takes weeks or months to regain full health and the only consolation is that there are 100 million others in the world diagnosed with the same illness….those darn mosquitos.
Jakarta being a warm and humid climate with an overcrowded popular makes for the perfect breeding ground for the virus, as the mosquitos can hop from one to the other happily infecting as they go. Luckily the virus is transferrable from person to person, but then again, people don’t go around biting each other on a regular basis anyway so it’s irrelevant
The other severe condition on offer from the nuisance midges is Chikungunya. Another debilitating virus, adeptly carried and dispensed by mosquitos. Offering the same menu of symptoms as Dengue with a few additional perks, a maculopapular rash on the trunk and limbs (of the human not the mosquito), arthralgia or arthritis affecting multiple joints, conjunctival infection and photophobia. The acute symptoms last weeks but effects from the virus can stay in the system for as long as two years.
The knowledge that all this medical havoc is spread by mosquitos is nerve wracking particularly when my tactic of staying save in Jakarta was to avoid ice in my Diet Coke. The knowledge that over 1 million people die each years from mosquito borne disease is also worrying.
However there are preventative measures, regular fogging, is carried out weekly on most compounds to eliminate mosquitos, mosquito nets, which are standard issue in Jakarta, albeit not by me, as I opt instead to complain ad nauseam about mosquito bites rather than invest in the 20 euro net. Mosquito repellent which has a sufficient percentage of Deet, say 30% +. A citronella clothes patch, not a fashion statement but say effective. Various creams and gels to be applied to the whole body before leaving the house, when entering the house and before going to bed. Do not attend any outdoor events. Take care when attending indoor events
Or if you really want to stay safe, stay in Ireland altogether.