Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Most Dangerous Creature In The World

When people are asked to think about dangerous animal, they normally consider big vicious animals with huge teeth or massively poisonous snakes or spiders.

The truth is that the most dangerous animal in the world is in fact a tiny barely perceptible little vampiric bastard that is responsible for more illness and death than any other creature.

This little monster is responsible for transmitting disease to over 700 million people every year, resulting in over 2 million deaths.

Can you believe that?

This demonic blood-sucking little fiend is the mosquito and has terrorised me for the last month or so, as well as several times in in my recent lifetime.

Regular readers will know that I am a barely recovering hypochondriac and I have recently fallen off the wagon and spent hours fretting over potential illness. My trip to Brazil meant that I had to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever, a disease spread by these damned insects, and that in itself caused me major mental problems, convincing myself that I would catch the disease before my feet left the shores of Britain (you can read about it here) .

In the past, going to places like China, I have had to take malaria tablets to protect myself against another disease spread by mosquitos. Worse, the bloody tablets made me feel ill anyway with the list of possible side-effects being almost as terrifying as catching the disease itself.

I travelled to Brazil armed with enough mosquito repellent to thwart a vast swarm of the little buggers. If you haven’t used mosquito repellent, let me tell you that it is one of the most revolting substances ever stored in an aerosol can.

First, I had to smother myself in high factor sun screen to protect my delicate skin from the powerful rays of the sun. On top of that, I then had to spray all of my exposed skin with mosquito repellent. 

There are three other things you need to know about mosquito repellent.

First of all, it absolutely stinks. If you want to go out at night time and wear something that makes you smell nice, forget it. My paranoia informed me that the people would probably keel over as I walked past due to the stench of this foul liquid protecting me against blood-sucking mosquitos.

Second, mosquito repellent is nasty stuff. The warnings on the can tell you not to spray it near your lips and eyes because it will cause a lot of irritation. I speak from experience. One night, I was a little overenthusiastic and some of the foul substance hit me in the face. I could feel it on my lips. I was in the bathroom, swearing and cursing as I vigorously removed all traces with copious amounts of water.

Finally, this stuff ruins your clothes. Again, in another bout of overenthusiastic squirting, I managed to spray loads of it all over my shorts, leaving a nasty little stain that made people think I had had an accident on the way to the toilet. I also managed to spray some onto my black leather watch strap, resulting in a black stain on my skin that I had to scrub for hours to remove.

After a week and a half in Brazil, of covering ourselves in this crap, we were delighted to report that no insect had bitten us.

However, something happened that caused the hypochondriac within to surface with maximum prejudice.

There is a disease called Dengue Fever which is prevalent in the tropics, including South America. Brazil has had many problems with it over the past few years. It is spread by a variety of mosquito called aegis aegypti

Worse, this disease is incurable.

We arrived in Búzios at the end of our holiday for a relaxing couple of days by the sea and quickly fell into the routine of lazing in the sun. Sadly, we were so free of stress that we forgot to spray ourselves with mosquito repellent.

The result? We woke up on the first morning with a few bite marks on our legs.

Mrs PM thought nothing of it.

I, on the other hand, mutated into The Hypochondriac, and instead of calmly reading a book by the pool, I spent hours searching the internet on my phone looking for symptoms of Dengue Fever trying to calculate whether the little bastards  that had bitten us where in fact mosquitos or some other nasty little blood-sucking critters.

Within hours I had become an expert on Dengue Fever – and I didn’t like what I read. The chances of catching it were slim (only 250,000 cases out of 180 million people in Brazil), and even if we had been bitten by a mosquito, the chances of it being an aegis aegypti were even smaller.

What's more, the aegis aegypti would have to be infected with Dengue Fever anyway as the disease is spread when the mosquito bites a person infected with the disease. Furthermore, it was spring in Brazil and peak mosquito time is in the summer (December to March).

At university I studied statistics as part of my degree and all of my common sense was telling me that the bites were totally harmless and the chances of catching something nasty were very slim. Logic was thrown out of the window by The Hypochondriac.

The thing is that Dengue Fever is like a really nasty bout of the flu, with added

For the rest of our stay in Brazil, we saturated ourselves in mosquito repellent (I virtually SHOWERED in the stuff) and we weren’t bitten again.

Mrs PM took it all in her stride and enjoyed her time without worry.

I tried to but I struggled to silence the voice at the back of my mind trying to convince me that I was doomed to Dengue Fever.

Thankfully, the bites have disappeared and the incubation period over so I will not succumb to Dengue Fever.

However, my fear of mosquitos is now instilled and I know that in order to eliminate that fear, I have to soak myself in an obnoxious liquid, allow a nurse to stab me with a needle full of an unspeakably vile substance or take tablets that I know will make me ill.

All this because of a tiny buzzing, six-legged little horror that the eye can barely perceive – the most dangerous creature in the world.

I want to go on record right now to reiterate the fact that mosquitos, like wasps, are right up there in the list of creatures that I would eliminate from planet Earth if I were given omnipotent powers.

And, like wasps, I will endeavour to eliminate them one at a time, whenever the opportunity arises.

At least then I will never accidentally spray mosquito repellent in my face again.


joeh said...

The most effective mosquito deterrent, safe to humans, spray devised was DDT. Ruled illegal because of a theory and a book by Rachel Carson that the chemical thinned the shells of eagles and other raptors.

Many studies point to this theory as being totally false, but once the public accepts a theory real science goes out the window and conjecture becomes fact.

Many statistics and studies say the real cause of raptor demise was idiot hunters shooting them.

Anyway DDT has been ruled illegal and as a result millions of people die every year because the mosquito can not be stopped by netting while you sleep.

Elephant's Child said...

It is true that 'squitos are nasty little suckers but I suspect that WE are the most dangerous creature in the world. Two million? One way and another I suspect we trump that figure often.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

I think you are probably right, sadly.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

That's interesting about DDT. Scaremongery makes people believe anything. I love science and demand proof rather than believing half-arsed theories and scare tactics by ignorant authors.

I recently discovered that mozzy spray only hides you from the little bugger.

I want something that's safe for all except mosquitos!!

I'd willingly wipe them out.




River said...

Hah! Mosquitos. I hate them. I rarely see one anymore, but if one makes its way into my home, I lock the cat outside while I saturate all three rooms with fly/mosquito spray., sometimes I talk to them. "Come over here, land on my arm, I want to kill you!".
When we kids were little, mum would rub our exposed skin with vinegar so that we could play on the porch, where it was a bit cooler, as the sun went down in summer, we'd even sleep out there.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Vinegar, as horrible as it is, is more pleasant than the foul stuff I was using.




DrB said...

If there were 25 people in the room, i would be the only one bitten by mozzie. I hate them, please wipe them out of earth. I found a very nice spelling insect repellent - smells like lemongrass. It is the Tiger Balm insect repellent, works great, all natural.

JahTeh said...

Did you know that mosquitos love our blood but can't digest the iron in it so they sting and inject saliva into the body so they can slurp up their joyjuice and that is why we get the diseases they carry.
Scientist friends of mine have been researching for years for an enzyme to prevent the digestion of the haem part of the blood which would wipe out their food supply.

DDT would only have worked where people could spray, mozzies would have survived in the deep jungle and what would have happened if they became immune to DDT? They are part of the life cycle of the malaria bug, kill them and malaria would find another vector to replace mozzies and we may not have found out what that was for many years.

Now Plasman you can have dreams of Jurassic size mosquitos just searching for you as an entree.

Mrs PM said...

I had no idea all of this was going through your mind!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I'm not keen on the smell of lemongrass, but at least it would be better than the napalm I had to use.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi JT,

Thanks for the image of Jurassic Mozzie - I'll have nightmares tonight.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi dearest,

Well it's a slight exaggeration because, as you know, the wifi signal was a little flaky to say the least.

And it only took about ten minutes to become a Dengue expert.



PM xx