Zika is in my backyard. To pot a plant, go for a walk, do outdoor yoga or give the dog a bath, I have to wear my special “Zika suit.” Next to the front door rests a pair of loose elephant pants, a long sleeve t-shirt and a bottle of bug spray. I live in a Zika zone, and it feels apocalyptic.
Time I used to spend discovering new movies on Netflix is now spent watching the loud local news while I desperately wait for the quick update on the state of Zika in my neighborhood. I’m lucky if the update is longer than ten seconds.
Although– it seems most people around us aren’t as concerned. When I take the dog out for a stroll on the boardwalk, I’m the only one wearing this bulky sweaty outfit. It’s to the point where I will only wear pants, closed shoes and long-sleeved (yes, even when I head out to go surfing–luckily there’s no bugs on the water!). I miss my sundresses and flip flops.
On the one hand, I feel smart and prepared by protecting myself, but on the other hand, I feel paranoid and uncomfortable. I’ve caught a bad case of cabin fever. I look longingly out the window and guiltily to my dog, promising that soon we can go and relax in the courtyard. The truth is I have no idea when we will be able to hang out with the butterflies out back.
To limit my time outside, I’ve resorted to re-potting plants in the house. I’ll lay out a few pieces of newspaper and partake in indoor gardening, trying not to let any soil sneak away from my gardening tools. Yoga is always done inside now. Instead of lingering outside absorbing sun while I do laundry, I hurry from machine to door, veering away from any puddles of water.
The most recent news update reported two more cases of local Zika, and they have found Zika in local mosquitos too. As soon as I read this, I texted my husband, reminding him to stay vigilant about the virus. He carries bug spray in his truck.
Men are not immune to contracting the virus. The media has erroneously focused on the dangers of Zika for women, especially pregnant women. However, this is misleading. Zika is a danger for all sexes. My husband also keeps his “Zika suit” by the front door.
Officials declare solutions like not allowing any water to stand outside for long, or removing the beautiful bromeliads from our landscape (as they are a nice home to mosquitos). There are reminders to wear bug spray. There is an advisory on the highway.
Even with all the public bug spraying and water drainage, the litter on the ground and in the trash cans is a problem that remains undiagnosed. Empty to-go boxes, abandoned cups and broken bottles collect fluid from the rain along walkways surrounded by historically chic architecture. Trash receptacles provide a host of little areas for bugs to breed, and yet some days the same stinky trash sits in its can, literally becoming a water park for insects. The littering problem is most certainly not aiding in the elimination of Zika. Perhaps the fight against Zika could assist in the fight against littering or vice versa.
While Zika haunts my neighborhood and threatens my outdoor routines, it’s not that much of a nuisance in comparison to other recent disasters like the flooding in the Southeast, the earthquake in Italy or the fires in the West. I recognize that I am lucky to only worry about sleeves and bug spray. But living in a Zika hot zone presents its difficulties due to the constant uncertainty surrounding the virus.
What are its long term effects? Even if I don’t plan to get pregnant soon, could contracting the Zika virus affect the future mini-me down the road? Researchers claim the virus is gone after nine weeks; I still can’t help but worry. I feel a massive responsibility to my future spawn as well as to my own long-term health.
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