Monday, November 17, 2008

I hate mosquitoes.

I hate mosquitoes. ‘Tis the season for them here, though. Luckily we have the awesome electric mosquito racquet which helps keep them under control, as long as we’re awake and paying attention.

At night when we’re in bed, though, we have problems. We’ve been avoiding using the mosquito net because we assume the cats will rip it up and render it useless. Plus sometimes the nets treated with a chemical to help kill and/or deter mosquitoes and the chemical might be harmful to the cats as well. We are exposed and vulnerable all night long.

The onset of the most recent mosquito invasion coincided with us getting sick. We kept waking up during the night with bites on our arms and little buzzes in our ears. Here, the first sign of a sniffle following a mosquito bite is reason to start thinking about malaria. You start checking your symptoms on an hourly basis. Do I have a fever? Chills? Maybe the air conditioner is too high, or I feel warm because it’s so hot out. Am I achy and tired? Well, I did hike up the mountain yesterday.

Mike got over a cold within a couple of days. Then I got a sore throat. And I was achy and tired. Rationally, I was pretty sure I didn’t have malaria. But rationale didn’t prevent a couple of sleepless nights, tossing and turning while being bitten by mosquitoes, wondering which one of the little monsters was responsible for my possible malaria.

After a few days the symptoms were getting stronger but hadn’t developed into a regular cold so I decided to seek medical attention. Normally I wouldn’t go to a doctor for just a sore throat, but my body has been exposed to so many new germs here I wanted professional advice. I work with a Belgian nurse. When I described my symptoms to her I was relieved that she didn’t jump up and get her malaria testing kit. But I was not relieved when she didn’t have any advice for me other than to see a doctor. I didn’t want to see a doctor, not here! I know one doctor here and we can communicate fairly well in his broken English and my broken French. But he’s on vacation this week. Between the language barrier and the thought of a strange doctor, my stress level was rising.

Imagine my relief when I found out an American doctor from Nairobi was visiting! Who cares if he’s a new doctor, he speaks English! At that point it trumped all other anxieties. He said the sore throat indicated that it was not malaria. My throat was red and my glands were a little swollen. I had a slightly elevated temperature but not a fever. I ached everywhere. He could do an instant strep test, which turned out to be negative. He couldn’t do any other kind of throat culture testing. The clinic just doesn’t have those capabilities. He could draw some blood and count my white cells to see if I have some sort of infection. (Antibiotics might not be available though.) Barring that, his best guess is that it’s just a random virus that would have to run its course with rest and fluids. I’d been taking ibuprofen for the aches and he said if that’s helping, then continue with it. After that all I could do was wait and see how the next few days played out.

I cancelled a dinner engagement that night because I was too exhausted. At 7:00 pm, the time dinner was supposed to start, I was already dozing off. I woke up around 1:30 am when the ibuprofen wore off, downed a couple more tablets, put hydracortizone on a new batch of itchy mosquito bites, and went back to sleep.

The next morning I woke up feeling much better. It was the best night’s sleep I’d had in days. My sore throat was much milder and the overall body aches had gone away. Best of all, the anxiety over what was wrong with me had melted away. I’d conquered my first African virus!

I feel a little invincible now. Here, you have to take small victories when you can get them. I zapped five mosquitoes this morning with my racquet and I didn’t get deathly ill. Not bad for a day’s work.

Thanks for letting me guest post! Check out further adventures from the sunny shores of Lake Tanganyika, Bujumbura, Burundi, at my blog Where in the World Am I? and see my photos on flickr.


  1. Stephanie or Vicky (oh hi! Congrats on the new baby, hopefully by now, anyway) I need help. I can't log in for my post tomorrow.

    I also can't find Stephanie's e-mail address anywhere. HALP!


  2. THanks Steph! Love the post! I love picturing you annihilating bugs with your zapper!


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