People often ask me how on earth did I get into the insect protection business from publishing and I usually refer them to my malaria story after the mosquito image here though this is only half of the truth. After being given the all clear by the Hospital for Tropical Diseases I returned to work on the magazines. I still really wanted to travel so in 1998 I went on an 11 day trip to Thailand. Having been put off anti-malarials from my India experience I decided to try a homeopathic version. Arriving at Bangrong Pier in Phuket I was dismayed to find that the local ferry boat had just left and not wishing to hang about I chartered a fishing boat to Ko Yao Noi, an island off the beaten tourist track fringing the Andaman Sea.
When I look back now I really didn’t have a clue about many things including how to protect myself from mosquitoes, sure I took along some DEET, wristbands and a torch, but what I really needed was a good mosquito net; nothing that you put on or plug in will protect you all night from getting bitten. Smoke coil rings will stop the insects coming in but as they are poisonous you will die after a few nights which is an unattractive idea! I awoke with about 20 bites the next night was similar and I left the island the following morning in search of relief for my itching bites. I was also getting bitten during the day as the DEET didn’t offer enough protection. I then visited Phi Phi before returning to London.
Upon visiting my youngest daughter’s prospective school the headmistress was talking about their medical facilities and that they had a nurse on site, suddenly feeling very ill I raised my hand, asking to visit her. She took my temperature and off I went in a taxi to the Hospital of Tropical Diseases as it was over 102 and rising. When I got there another nurse registered it at over 103 though the doctor didn’t want to admit me -I think they were short of beds- he tried a couple of times to get me to go home but as I was aching all over with profuse sweating and feeling worse than I had ever felt in my life I decided I was going nowhere. By now my temperature had risen to 104.1! So I was wheeled along to the ward singing at the top of my voice, “IT’S A NICE DAY TO HAVE A FEVER….” to the tune of It’s A Long Way To Tipperary! It was the only way I could cope with the intense pain. I knew I was in trouble when they escorted this gaunt, under-nourished female, attached to a drip, out of a quarantined room and put me inside. I don’t remember much more about that night. In the morning a nurse said that the night staff had enjoyed my impromptu concert!
I was later diagnosed with dengue fever which used to be called breakbone fever because of the intense joint and muscular pain. It is a virus only transmitted through the aedes genus of mosquitoes. There is no cure for dengue like many other mosquito borne diseases the best cure is prevention and so the seed was born to develop something that really worked without harming the environment; incognito.