How I deal with Zika

Our retirement plan when we got married was someday, after retirement, we would sail through the Caribbean. As our luck would have it, just as our dream is getting ready to come true, mosquitos have become more dangerous.

A similar story plays out for couples who have yearned for a baby, and just as the day approaches when their dream can be realized, they have to worry about Zika.

Sometimes we just have to cope with new dangers. Here is what I am doing to cope with Zika and keep our plan alive.

Our plan does not involve having babies, but zika is dangerous for adults too. It can cross the blood brain barrier, invade nerve tissue, cause stroke or paralysis.

I’m not familiar with Zika, but I am familiar with mosquitos. I’ve been bitten a lot over the years, so I know how it usually happens. I think I never have gotten bitten through my clothing. I’ve never been bitten in a grocery store. I get bitten when I am uncovered, outside. So, all I have to do is cover my body in those situations where I would otherwise get bitten by mosquitos. To bolster basic clothing, I decided to treat our most-used, favorite clothing with pyrethrins.

I bought a Sawyer Pyrethrins product, and sprayed our favorite lightest weight pants, socks, long sleeve shirts, hats, scarfs and house dress. I sprayed our most-likely-to-be-worn hot weather clothing, but didn’t spray heavier clothing. I know from experience that mosquitoes don’t bite through my coat or sweatshirt. I do spray shoes and socks with the pyrethrins, and that leaves exposed skin on hands and wrists and face, and possibly neck to worry about.

I don’t think I have ever been bit in the face with a mosquito, so for us, think our hats and scarves will protect out necks and heads so mostly need Deet just on hands and cuffs. I bought the DEET type that is slow release, and less toxic to humans.

My greatest historical risk is getting bitten while sleeping, probably because mosquitos love to suck the blood of naked sleeping people. So we have some excellent screens, on our boat and treated mosquito netting to sleep under. The treated net means any mosquitos that land on it will die, thus helping protect our entire boat environment.

We do have a yard lantern and “repellent” made by Thermacell. I didn’t realize when I bought it that it emits poison, not just repellent, so I don’t think we’ll need that, but its nice to have it on hand in case we feel that our situation calls for drastic measures.

I already know, from experience, that I can protect myself from mosquito bites. Covering up and not hanging out in clouds of mosquitos is key. We can monitor our environment, and add additional layers of clothing and spray in accord with how many mosquitos we see in the environment.

I am also treating my two dogs with topical pesticide that kills ticks and fleas and repels mosquitos. Treating out clothes and dogs is the less toxic way to treat our environment. I don’t want to spray everywhere for mosquitos, because that could harm the ocean around us, and pesticides can do damage to the nervous system themselves, so it makes no sense to over-use nerve toxins while trying to protect yourself from nerve toxins!

I promised Albert years ago that we would sail to someplace warm. Now he has promised me that he will take Zika seriously and stay covered. I don’t want either one of us to risk Zika, so we’re doing our trip with added precautions! As we wait for our pet permit to arrive, we’re putting the final few bottles of wine, dog food, and engine oil on board. Adventures always involve danger. As one friend pointed out, we have the risk of tick borne or mosquito born disease already in Maine. A man in New Hampshire died of West Nile Virus just a few years ago. Into our life, fears and diseases may fall. The fear is the most disabling part of the illness. We can look to our experience to realize, we can do this. It’s not what we expected, but we can hang onto our dream. Keep calm and carry on.

About Jenny Ruth Yasi

author, sailor, animal trainer,rally, agility and freestyle competitor, owner/proprietor Whole Dog Camp, now located in Freeport, Maine. For 31 years we lived on Peaks Island Maine. Now we are sailing with our 2 dogs in the Bahamas, and will return to Maine in 2017
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