Skeeter bit: Explaining the dangers of “Chihuahua” fever

“Daddy, a skeeter bit me. I think I got Chihuahua fever now.”  This is what my seven-year-old boy said as he began to bark and attempt to lick himself in a contortion-like way. Stop that.

Somehow between HGTV and Nickelodeon that seem to be the only channels available in our home, the TV landed on a news story this week about chikungunya fever, a mosquito-spread disease that’s found its way to higher numbers in the U.S. this year. And this is, I assume, where my boy ‘caught’ his “Chihuahua” concern.

“I think you mean chikungunya fever, big man. And stop doing that; you’re going to hurt your neck,” I said. “And, yeah, you probably got it and every other mosquito disease this side of malaria. We live in south Georgia where we have more mosquitoes than sense near year-round and everything from the West Nile Virus to the East Chattahoochee Runs. ”

“Chicken Gun Fever? That doesn’t sound much better. What is that?” he said.

I let his mispronunciation slide without correction but not without a burst of laughter. I contemplated quickly coming up with what could be a diagnosis of “Chicken Gun” fever, but because he has just enough smarts and curiosity to be dangerous, I decided to try and really explain to him what he was talking about.

I told him, from what I’ve learned, you can get chikungunya fever from a mosquito bite but he likely didn’t have it. It’s been more common in Asia and Africa for many decades. It was found in the Caribbean for the first time late last year with only a handful of imported cases reported in the U.S. each year.

It’s making news now because of the higher numbers in the U.S. this year, which is approaching 300 cases, or 10 times more than typical. It makes you sick, sort of like the flu, and with elderly and infants, it can be more dangerous.

“So, I should probably stop trying to lick myself?” he said.

“Well, that’s a judgment call, but, yeah, I’d get cured if I were you before mama gets home,” I said.

As we enter the Dog Days of Summer (pun intended), watch for mosquitoes and Chihuahua fever. You don’t want to get caught barking and licking yourself in polite company.

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