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The First Bite

At the end of a day of fieldwork in Juazeiro, a city in Northeast Brazil, I sat in bed trying to write up my notes. A noisy fan in my small room was not alleviating the suffocating heat, so I moved to the porch to breath in some fresh air. Not long after I sat down, an itch on my left arm prompted a quick swat from my right hand. I turned my hand over to see a dead mosquito, with blood smeared on my skin. During my stay in Juazeiro, in the semiarid region of the Bahia state, mosquitoes, which in this region are broadly called muriçocas, were a constant presence. The itchiness caused by their bites is a nuisance, but they can also be dangerous: some mosquitoes convey disease pathogens. As I inspected the dead mosquito that afternoon my trained eye recognized its black-and-white stripes as a telltale signature of the Aedes aegypti, a species notorious for transmitting viruses such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and (urban) yellow fever.

It was the A. aegypti... see more