In every season, dry or rainy, Nicaragua faces a plague of mosquitoes that is either merely a nuisance or downright dangerous depending on the mosquito. Most mosquitoes that enter our home might pester us at night or have us searching for the ultimate remedy to relieve the itchiness but these mosquitoes are nothing worse than what we might encounter in Charlotte, North Carolina on a summer night or during a camping expedition.
However in Nicaragua, there are other varieties of mosquitoes that are carriers of serious viruses that can make you very sick. Having had dengue fever twice, I can tell you that it is no war story from your travels with which you will regale your friends lightheartedly. The same could be said of malaria or the Chikungunya virus. On the other hand, both Aiden and I had the Zika virus like most everyone else last year and it was not too terrible: I dread much more having the common flu.
Thankfully, the city of Granada and the Ministry of Health (MINSA) do actively campaign against mosquitoes. Health workers will regularly pass by your house to do an inspection of your yard (you must let them in but you can demand to see identification). They will advise you of areas that may shelter mosquito larva due to standing water and will place sandwich bags of insecticide (these look like small baggies of sand and are called abate) inside those areas in question.
More aggressively, the health ministry will come by to spray large quantities of diesel and cipermetrina using what looks like a sort of armed leaf blower that shoots thick smoke filled with insecticide into homes and gardens. By the way, this is a very loud process that tends to startle kids and animals.
Often I am not at home when workers are targeting my particular street but when I am, I sometimes invite the sprayer in to treat the whole house and backyard. They work very quickly but it takes about 20 minutes before the smoke really clears to go back inside again.
If you have children or pets and they are home, you will want to tell the worker to give you a minute (Espérame por favor, un minuto!). Gather up your kids, wallet, keys, and phone and put your dog on a leash to go with you. Head outside to wait or far enough away that you are not blasted with smoke (some folks wait on the other side of the street). Keep in mind that you will not want to go back inside your home or property for a good 20-30 minutes, so lock up when they finish and find a place to park your family while you wait. It’s not a bad idea to pre-plan with your family what you are going to do for the day it happens.
The other option is to say hoy, no gracias (thank you, but not today) to the sprayer and they will not trouble you at all and will move on. If you are not being bothered by mosquitoes, there is no point in going through this extermination process. But if the mosquitoes are truly pestering you, let the sprayers in to do their job. Personally, whenever I say that I am going to do the fumigation myself, I don’t get very far in the process before I realize that the job is much bigger than me and anyway, I don’t personally relish spraying toxins myself.
Be advised that this same spraying can happen in a commercial area! You may be eating a sandwich al fresco with your family down on Calle La Calzada when a truck zooms by loudly shooting thick smoke between your bread slices. If you see them coming, grab your kids and your stuff and head inside a restaurant for shelter. If your kids are little or sensitive to noise, smoke or weird smells try your best to distract them and make a game of it. Younger kids will take their cue from you, so try to control your reaction and make it not seem like an emergency.
You are your own best safety advocate!
Look around your property for standing water and see if you can eliminate it as a host environment. Usual suspect areas include outdoor water receptacles, plant pots, vases, toilets that are not often flushed, and run off water that doesn’t drain properly. Bring your favorite brand of mosquito repellent from home that feels right for your family. Pack mosquito nets to hang around your beds or ask that your rental home include one for each bed.
I sincerely encourage you to do all that you can to avoid getting sick by working towards minimizing the amount of mosquitoes near your home. If you do get sick, it’s good to have a plan for which doctor you want to see for the adults or children or the hospital that will be your emergency option. Having that plan in place will help you to enjoy your time in Granada with more confidence.