Zika in Puerto Rico


Posted by Cassie

Zika, Zika, Zika! Everyone’s talking about Zika! As you can imagine, in Puerto Rico it has been a huge topic of conversation lately. As the latest “new” mosquito-borne virus/disease there has been a lot of worry, alarm and confusion. Puerto Rico is the first place in the U.S. to face the full force of this virus. Unlike in the north where they can just simply say “avoid areas with Zika” when we live here, we are much more aware. Currently, about 700 people in PR have been confirmed with Zika and those numbers continue to grow. But what does that mean? Let’s first go over what Zika is and isn’t.

aedes
Aedes mosquitoes are large, slow and striped

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus carried by the Aedes mosquito -the same ones that carry dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. They are larger mosquitoes with tiger striping. They like to hide out in houses, under beds and in cabinets. Their eggs can withstand long periods of dryness and hatch in as little as a thimbleful of water. They don’t fly far, but travel widely mainly because of the movement of humans and other blood meals. Because of these factors, completely eradicating mosquitoes especially in the wet tropics can be very difficult, if not impossible. The Zika virus can also spread sexually for the approximately 10 days that it is active in the body.

The illness of Zika is actually overall much, much milder than most of the other mosquito-borne illnesses. When Britton had chikungunya/dengue (still not sure which), it laid him out flat for a week! Zika, on the other hand, is almost entirely asymptomatic meaning most people will not even know that they had Zika! Those who do get Zika symptoms have very mild symptoms such as a mild flu. Very few people, in fact much fewer than from the flu, are expected to die from Zika illness.

The main concerns for Zika are Guillain-Barré which is rare and temporarily debilitating but in most cases people will recover and microcephaly in infants born to mothers who had Zika during pregnancy. Microcephaly is basically a shrunken head/brain deformity that can cause all sorts of serious problems in the baby including seizures, vision loss, inability to walk, and other developmental abnormalities. In the general population this occurs in about 2-12 out of 10,000 births.

zika-virus-and-microcephaly-4-638

The increased number of microcephaly births in Zika exposed pregnant women, including the exact rate, is still not exactly known. Nor, is much else about it for that matter. All that is known is that there is an increased risk. Most reports show, however, that the increased numbers of microcephaly were dramatically overstated in Brazil and that of those that were accurate nearly all of the women had experienced the classic Zika symptom of a rash on the face and red eyes. Since only about 20% of people who are infected will experience any symptoms at all, the likelihood of a microcephaly birth is still very low.

The other factor to remember is that once people have been exposed to Zika, including women of childbearing years, we then have immunity! It is only during this short window of time while it spreads, perhaps a year, that we are immunologically naïve and will have this risk. Because it is already spreading so rapidly, it is estimated that 80% or more of people in Puerto Rico will have been exposed (and therefore granted future immunity) to Zika. It is estimated that at least 20-25% will have been exposed before this current year (2016) is out.

My Thoughts on Zika
To me, given all of this information about Zika, which is still frankly not much (I would like to know the exact expected rates of births with microcephaly in infected and symptomatic mothers for instance), I would say that the majority of the population doesn’t need to worry much at all! Zika is a very mild disease and most people won’t even know that they had it. And trying to fight off all the mosquitoes is a losing battle. Even in the states, West Nile Virus spread like wild fire and infected tens of thousands of people. Even though mosquitoes there are really only an issue for about 3 months out of the year and most people have screens and air conditioning, it still spread! It is nearly impossible to be completely locked away from mosquitoes, and many call the fight against mosquitoes (especially the aedes mosquitos) a lost cause.

In fact since it is estimated that most of us will get Zika anyway, I’d rather get my immunity early rather than delay it further and that way I won’t have to worry as much about questionable chemical municipal sprays, GMO mosquitoes, larvacide in the waterways and freaking out about mosquitoes (though I am certainly no fan of the little blood-suckers and have tried all I can to keep them away, given how much they love me I probably already have it).

Since the biggest issue with Zika is the increased risk of microcephaly, the group of people who I would be most concerned about are women who could become pregnant, are thinking of becoming pregnant or who are currently pregnant. For that reason some groups are recommending the delay of pregnancy until after the wet summer season (when presumably we’ll all get the chance at Zika immunity). Even still, while it is an increased risk, most babies born to women who were exposed to Zika during pregnancy will be normal.

I hope this summary of information on Zika that I have been reading up on has been helpful. In the meantime, I will be eating a lot more garlic to ward off these vampires and keep my cardiovascular/immune system strong to fight off any virus. ¡Salud!

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Out and About: More Island Scenes


Posted by Cassie

I hope you enjoy some of these recent island scenes from our yard and out and about.

Pomorrosa mulberry surinam cherry
Some of the delicious produce we grow here at our place: pomarrosa (large pink pear-shaped fruit), mulberry (black berry) and Surinam cherry (little pumpkin looking fruit)

Horse and seaThis sort of captures a feeling of Rincón doesn’t it? Horse and sea

Bazooka jack BK
Britton with a house jack through the tropical gardens to the cabin

DAR Wok eventAt the WOK for a fun fundraiser for DAR, the animal rescue group

Bright green tree frog
Check out this awesome frog we saw against a restaurant window after a heavy rain!

Parrot in the tree close
A wild parrot up in a tree

Turkey mama and babies
Turkey mama and even more pavitos came out of the forest. We’re going to have to downsize on the number of turkeys as we are getting overrun!

Island scene fruit vendor
Roadside fruit vendor under a mango tree (and/or broken down truck ;-) )

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Money Matters: Shop Smart and Shop Rarely


Posted by Cassie

This is part of a series on finances. Here’s Part 1: How we live on just $1000/month.

Living in a super tiny indoor space (and a park-like outdoor space) as well as having a careful budget, has really helped to understand what is important and what is not. It has helped me to weigh in whether or not this or that purchase is really worth those valuable dollars, resources or space. In 300 square feet, even a new pair of shoes can take up a pretty large amount of real estate. As I have discussed before, many of our modern problems could be alleviated by simply not buying as much stuff! And we subscribe to this philosophy quite a bit.

But sometimes in this modern landscape we do still need to buy things. This is a point when you need to be careful where your dollars go if you are serious about becoming financially savvy and financially independent. But there can be lots of temptation and marketers that would have you believe that spending gobs of money is the only way for you to get your goods. I recently saw an ad posed as an article in a magazine that made me laugh out loud.

Money matters shopping
Do you see what I see?

At first glance it seems innocent and common enough. There is a list of the must-haves for going to the beach: Laura Prepon’s supposed picks. A tote bag, cover-up, bangle bracelet, bikini and wide brimmed hat. What made me laugh though, was when I totaled up the cost of these items: $298 for the tote, $98 for the cover-up, $75 for 3 bracelets, $225 for a bikini top and $150 for a bikini bottom, and $40 for the hat. Or a total of $886! And that is not including tax which in Puerto Rico would be about $102! So around $1,000 just to wear very little to the beach?!

Outfit
What’s in Cassie’s beach bag?

It got me thinking about my beach gear. Like Laura Prepon, the swimsuit from Marshall’s was the most expensive item at $25 (and both the top and bottom! Imagine that! You don’t have to choose whether to go topless or bottomless -haha). The hat from Me Salvé was $1.99. The tote bag I’ve had for about 15 years and I think cost something like $15 back in the day. The cover up I recently got at a clothing swap, so essentially cost me just cleaning out my clothes that no longer fit me (this is the best idea ever! -thanks Ocean State of Mind!). Regarding bracelets, for one thing I don’t wear any jewelry to the beach, but I just threw them in to be comparable. The green one I got at Kohls in Greeley for about $2 and the bead one was a gift from my momma (thanks Mom!) that I think was something like $10. For a grand total of $53.99! With tax that would be about $60 total. Quite a difference especially when you look essentially the same as if you had spent what the magazines want you to think you need!

Beach outfit
Are you beach ready at $60 or $1000?

So be careful what you buy and be careful what you read. Sometimes just reading or watching things like in magazines, catalogs, TV, internet, etc can make you want things that you would never have thought about before and also plant in your mind a sort of normalcy for spending outrageous amounts of money. Remember, if you are seeking financial freedom, your dollars are your freedom fighters so use them wisely! And while bargain shopping can be a game in and of itself, the truly best way to save money (not to mention the resources it took to make the items!) is to not spend it!

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John Oliver on Puerto Rico


Posted by Cassie

In case you missed it, John Oliver and Lin-Manuel Miranda break down the real reasons Puerto Rico is struggling so much economically: a long history of different, preferential rules and programs for the rich from the states that economically has handicapped the larger community AKA modern colonialism. There are special tax breaks, loop holes and unequal voting, shipping and bankruptcy laws that benefit vultures who feed off of decay, chaos, vulnerability, desperation and collapse. Even the toll roads on the island are owned by Wall Street! If we think there is legalized corruption through an oligarchy in the U.S. proper (which there most certainly is!), Puerto Rico is this on steroids.

What a powerful piece. Now we the people need to stand up and take the power back!

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