Living in South America exposes one to mosquito born virus diseases that flourish in the hot, humid, and wet environment here. I’m referring to Dengue, Chikungunya, and the newest arrival, Zika. These diseases sound exotic and scary, and I’m sure it has caused more than one person to rethink traveling southward. For the most part though, a little precaution seems to go a long way.
I live in Bahia de Caraquez, a city in the province of Manabi, Ecuador. According to a recent local news report, there have been 23 total confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the province of Manabi as of the end of February 2016. Most of those cases have been reported in Portoviejo, a city that’s a 90 minute drive time from here. As far as I know, there have been no confirmed cases of Zika here in Bahia de Caraquez.
From Ecuadorian news reports regarding Zika, The Ministry of Health is aggressively working with local government officials, including local Armed Forces units, to prevent the spread of this disease. A concerted effort is being made to eliminate breeding grounds for the carrier of this disease, namely the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
This little pain in the ass mosquito is also the carrier for Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever. So the bonus we get from eliminating its breeding grounds is not just a decreased incidence of Zika, but a decrease incidence and presence of the other diseases as well.
In recent local news it was reported there had been an expectation back in January of a greater spread of Zika. Since that hasn’t occurred, the feeling is that the efforts to contain Zika have been working. I’m happy about that because who needs that action here!
Our local economy during Carnaval was affected by peoples’ concern about Zika. The numbers of people traveling to the coast were significantly decreased from previous years. Street vendors, taxi services, and local businesses catering to out-of-town arrivals didn’t have the holiday traffic they were hoping for. This was my first experience with Carnaval and I had expected thousands of people on the streets by all the talk. What I saw was barely hundreds.
This brings me back to the issue of people avoiding coming to Ecuador because of Zika…or the other mosquito born diseases as well. If you aren’t pregnant or planning on being pregnant, don’t let undue fear stop you from living your life and making the trip.
With a little preparation when going outside, like applying repellent, your risk of getting an infected bite greatly decreases. I usually forget to use repellent, and I have been bit, but if I have been infected I haven’t known it.
When I have been bitten it usually has been inside a building, like a cafe, where the air is still. Walking around Bahia de Caraquez, there usually seems to be a breeze blowing and I rarely encounter mosquitoes or any bugs for that matter.
Ecuador is a beautiful place to visit, retire, and live in. Come check it out!