You've heard about it on the news. The horror stories. The travel warnings. But thank goodness it's only travel related right? And thank goodness only the Aedes mosquito spreads it. And thank goodness we don't have THAT kind of squeeter in the States. Oh, wait. The news just reported that Miami has them. And they are spreading the virus to non- travelers. Stay away from Miami, people.
Well. I have bad news. One of our renters came over to tell us that someone from the health department stopped by his house right here in Lamar County in Hattiesburg, MS to give him a pamphlet on Zika, and informed him that one of his neighbors has contracted Zika.
More bad news. My dear husband responded with, "That neighbor would be ME."
After the man nearly broke his ankle trying to flee, Starling assured him he is no longer contagious. (Or is he? Bum... Bum... Bum...)...
What is the likelihood, you might ask, that Starling Johnson has had Dengue Fever (when he was serving a mission in Honduras), Chikungunya, last year while in Cozumel, and now Zika?? Well, I absolutely hated Stats class in college, so you're guess is as good as mine, but apparently he has extremely tasty blood (which I contribute to the fact that his blood is probably congealed corn syrup from all the sweets and sodas he consumes).
Since you are behind the safety of your computer screen and nowhere NEAR the local man with Zika- would you like to know HOW he got it?
From a mosquito bite, duh. (Sorry. I couldn't resist).
Starling traveled to Mexico and, naturally, brought back the souvenir from Hell. (I mean- couldn't he have just brought us back some sea glass)? Luckily, because he has already had Dengue and Chikungunya (which have symptoms quite similar to Zika), he recognized his symptoms almost immediately. And I say ALMOST, because when the only symptoms were joint pain, I had ALMOST convinced him that he had gout from drinking too much soda and that the only cure was to never drink soda again. (Stupid Google and Zika ruining my plans to cleanse my house of Coca-Cola).
Starling prides himself (or at least annoys the mess out of me) with his online Google degree in Medicine. He had himself diagnosed with Zika within an hour of his first symptoms.
"Impossible." I said. (Really a word that should never come out of anyone's mouth when in the presence of a Johnson).
Like the health conscious man he is, (so long as it doesn't encroach on his sweet tooth), he quarantined himself to my house. (Lovely).
But not to fear. Zika isn't airborne (though you'd think so by people's reactions when they discover he's had it). Nor will it rub off on you. Research claims it can only be passed by the Aedes Egypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitos, which only carry Zika from one Zika infested person to an innocent, unsuspecting person.
Starling went straight to the doctor and told her, "I traveled out of the country and believe I have Zika." Upon examination, the doctor said, "It is possible...your eyes are red and the symptoms match, but we don't have a test for that here in our clinic. Go to the Health Department."
MORE bad news. People, I fear for the lives of Mississippians if ever we have a medical emergency in which our health department becomes vital for our survival.
Starling's visit went as follows:
After approaching the front counter, he told the individual at the front desk that he believed he had Zika. The young lady looked at him oddly, darted into the back, and returned with the response, "We don't test for that here."
Starling, wanting to be extra thorough, waited in a twenty minute line to see a nurse and set up an appointment to get a tetanus shot, (which has absolutely nothing to do with Zika, but apparently he was craving a shot).
Upon being called up to the window, he asked the lady about the tetanus shot and then reiterated, "I also believe I have the Zika Virus," and the lady leapt from her chair, yelling, "Don't be bringin that mess up in here!"
Another lady piped in with a more kosher response. "Ooooh Wee! I hope you get better!"
"But aren't you supposed to be keeping up with the disease? For statistic purposes or to warn people in case it comes to the area?"
"Naw. We ain't doin' no testin for dat."
Baffled, Starling asked, "So if I were to contact dateline NBC and have them follow me into this health department of Forrest County, MS, have them record your response to someone telling you he may have a rare mosquito born illness, you would be pleased with your answer?" She just shrugged.
Starling came home and told me defeated, "Well, I tried."
Dear people of Hattiesburg. OH MY GOSH. I didn't even think Starling had the dang Zika, but my blood got a little stuffy, what with the boiling it was doing, over the fact that the news is going bezerko that we are all gonna DIE from Zika and our friggin HEALTH DEPARTMENT is telling people, "We don't test for that."
Starling continued to quarantine himself, despite the complete disregard for safety exhibited from the very people in CHARGE of our local public health. After he was completely clear of symptoms, his doctor called him and asked how he was. He informed her that he was symptom free and felt fine. She, ten days AFTER his appointment, said that she had received Zika testing instruction and wanted to see if he was indeed Zika positive. (Zika can be detected from a blood and urine test up to 12 weeks after being symptomatic).
The call came. Bad news. "Mr. Johnson we have evaluated your urine sample, and you are Zika positive."
Competence FINALLY emerged from somewhere, (I'm doubting from anywhere local) and the calls began. Where did you travel? How long were you there? When did your symptoms emerge? What WERE your symptoms? Did you die? (Just kidding- they didn't ask that last one, but seriously- they were a little over the top with their concern for his health considering they didn't bother caring until AFTER he was BETTER).
Where did Starling travel? Mexico. When did his symptoms emerge? A day or so after he returned home. What WERE his symptoms? At first, a sore big toe. (You can imagine my level of sympathy after Starling returned from a TEN DAY trip, leaving me home ALONE with FOUR kids under the age of SEVEN, and all he could do was whine and complain about a SORE big TOE). (And if you read my last blog entry on the sympathy I received during my non medicated BIRTHING of a HUMAN BEING- you'll understand my lack of give-a-dang).
Then he began complaining about joint pain. And then his eyes turned red like he'd caught the pink eye. And he felt really tired. (I, of course, blamed it on too much Coke consumption and told him to drink some water, get up, and take out the trash).
When he broke out with a rash.... well... that's when we knew. Last year Starling and I bonded over a month of couples Chikungunya, and a rash was the dead give-away that it was a mosquito virus. BUT, it's like chicken-pox; they say you only get it once, (which is appropriate because there are so many other fun and exciting diseases to catch from mosquitoes. Why not try them all)? And unlike Chikungunya, which was utterly horrific and forever lasting, that was it. The rash left after a day and he felt fine again. A very mild, 8 day from start to finish virus. One, that if you didn't recognize the symptoms, wouldn't even go to the doctor about. You'd just take Advil and grab a nap.
NOW, if Zika is as mild as I say it is, why are people FREAKING out so bad? Well, because Zika is a HUMONGOUS deal if you are pregnant or become pregnant. It causes severe birth defects such as microcephaly. The virus lasts longest in sperm so it is advised that a person that has Zika use precautions so as not to infect partners who are or may become pregnant. (What a blessing for us that Starling isn't pregnant and I'll beat him with a stick wrapped in barbed wire if he even THINKS of getting me pregnant again).
SO- after several phone interviews, (that took HOURS of precious Honey- Do list time), The State Health Department sent a mosquito specialist from Jackson to evaluate our property where she conducted a mosquito study to determine the species and landing rates in our area. She gave Starling a handy dandy Zika kit backpack complete with bug spray, pesticides, condoms, and several other goodies. (A "congrats on your new disease" package). She took him to our closest neighbor and Starling was given the awkward responsibility of briefing him on the situation, and asking for access to the back of his property that joins our land.
"Whatever it takes!" he quickly complied, and returned indoors where he probably still sits to this day.
The specialist later knocked on our door covered in mosquito bites to give us- YOU GUESSED IT- (you are catching on). BAD NEWS.
"The Aedes Albopictus mosquito is present on your property." (And from the looks of the welts on the lady, FLOURISHINg). Right HERE, people! In Lamar County.
That's when it got serious. The mosquito artillery unit was sent to bomb us. And they did. They went on bombing raids (via golf cart) 4 times the first day and 3 times a day afterward for the next week. Zika pamphlets were dispersed to neighbors. Panic spread like wild fire.
That's when the shunning started. (Okay, people have actually been really nice to Starling so long as he doesn't come anywhere near them).
SO, while the news is having you steer clear of Miami because of the "discovery" of Aedes mosquitoes, you might want to be more concerned with the fact that they are probably in EVERY state in the US. And while you think, "Well no one around HERE has Zika or West Nile...," you may have people in your area that don't report it, OR you may, like us, have a government-run over achieving Health Department that sends people HOME.
SO- as a matter of public health- PEOPLE wear bug spray! And don't expect the news to know what's going on around YOUR house. Our health department doesn't even know what's going on in their own office.
The one good thing that has come out of this, is Starling's new nickname, replacing PePe. He now goes by Zeke.