Mosquito bites can be no small matter

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Mosquito bites can be no small matter


As if the summer heat isn’t bad enough, mother nature has provided an extra annoyance: mosquitoes. With this year’s rainy season having been particularly long, there were more puddles, hence more larvae, leading to more winged blood-suckers. The mosquitoes are likely to swarm for the next two months, and even travelers abroad won’t be able to escape, if they go to tropical areas.
While most mosquito bites merely leave an itchy bump, some can transmit Japanese encephalitis if the mosquito recently bit a pig infected with the virus. The good news is that Japanese encephalitis is very rare ― there were only six cases in Korea last year. The bad news is that it’s very dangerous ― one in four patients die. Another 25 percent will wind up paralyzed, with a speech impediment, or suffer from emotional or psychological problems. Symptoms normally begin to show within two weeks of contraction, and can include fever, headache, convulsions and even comas. Patients must be treated quickly.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine against Japanese encephalitis. The first shot is given when a baby is one year old, and the second shot is given one to two weeks later. The third, fourth and fifth shots are given when the child is two years old, six years old and 12 years old. Because most children are vaccinated, the majority of encephalitis patients are seniors, who often have weak immune systems. Seniors should be extra careful in August and September to avoid mosquito bites.
Vivax malaria is caused by parasitic plasmidium vivax. When a mosquito bites a person, parasitic protozoa enter the person’s red blood cells. After 1993, cases of vivax malaria began to show up in Korea. It causes high fever, anemia and an enlarged spleen. Fortunately, vivax malaria is less serious than most tropical forms of malaria, but so far no vaccine has been developed to counteract it. Vivax malaria is relatively widespread near the Demilitarized Zone and in the region north of the Han River.
Dengue fever is a very common disease in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and Oceania. Every year 100 million people suffer from the disease in those areas. The symptoms occur five to eight days after a person is bitten by a mosquito infected with the dengue fever virus. Recently, there have been reports of dengue fever patients in Korea, as the number of tourists going to Southeast Asia has increased.
There is no vaccine against dengue fever. Unlike mosquitoes that carry malaria, mosquitoes that carry dengue fever are active in the daytime. In areas where dengue fever is prevalent, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and apply insect repellent to exposed areas of your body.
Tropical malaria can have serious repercussions, including brain damage. When traveling to tropical regions, tourists should take a preventive medicine, mefloquine, once a week, starting two weeks before their departure from Korea and until their fourth week after arrival in Korea.
Yellow fever is common in Africa and Latin America. The disease is caused by bites by mosquitoes carrying flavivirus. Its symptoms include fever, chill and headaches; three out of five persons infected with the virus die. Fortunately, there is a vaccine against the disease. The vaccine only starts working 10 days after receiving the shot, however, so tourists should have injections 10 days before departure.


How to Prevent Mosquito Bites:
-Get rid of puddles in which wrigglers, or the mosquito larvae, can thrive
- Take showers and wash your feet often to eliminate the odor of sweat or lactic acid
- Avoid the use of perfume or cosmetics (mosquitoes follow scent)
- Wear loose-fitting clothes
- Sleep under a mosquito net
- Put on light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Apply insect repellent

When camping outside, avoid going out in the evening and early morning when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use mosquito repellent
- Take anti-malaria preventive medicine two weeks before going to tropical areas
- See a doctors if you have signs of fever during a trip or two weeks after a vacation

by Hwang Se-hee

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