‘Chikungunya’ Mosquito Virus Appears in NC

The first known case of the mosquito-borne illness named the “chikungunya” virus, has appeared in North Carolina this past Thursday, according to State health officials’ reports. The virus was found in a state resident that had recently visited the Caribbean.

A common species of mosquito in North Carolina, known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is purported to be the most likely candidate to transmit the disease. However, there have been no documented cases of the virus becoming acquired anywhere within the States, including North Carolina. Only the few 27 cases in the U.S. as of now all were found in individuals that had recently returned from the Caribbean area.

Orange County Community Health Supervisor, Judy Butler, explains how this virus can be spread:

“We have a lot of people that travel in Orange County, and people that have been to the Caribbean and other parts of the world where it exists,” says Butler. “If they are bitten by an infected mosquito while they are there, and then they come back to Orange County, they can develop illness. If they are bitten by one of our mosquitoes here, then it becomes infected, then it can turn around and bite someone else.”

Butler says North Carolina residents that have recently traveled to the Caribbean or other areas that have the illness need to alert their physicians immediately if they begin to experience the symptoms of virus following the bite. Though hardly fatal, the symptoms include a fever and extreme pains in the hands and feet.

Butler also says the best ways to prevent any risk of spreading the virus or further breeding of the Asian tiger mosquitoes are actually the most obvious ones:

“Basically, we all need to take measures to avoid mosquito bites as much as we can,” says Butler. “Mosquito bite prevention is the best thing you can do.”

Butler says this includes removing or keeping an eye on any source of standing water, wearing long sleeves and long pants in the times in which mosquitoes are most likely to bite, wearing appropriate repellent, and to properly screen doors and windows.


Why do North Carolinians love pirates so much?

Pirates in North Carolina again?

Yes, we remember Black Beard. Most authorities now agree that the shipwreck we thought was Black Beard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge is just that. The big news about the recovery of the ship’s anchor has us talking about pirates again.

The new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, although not as big a hit as its predecessors, brought the world’s attention to pirate mythology again.

At East Carolina University, the Pirates nickname for its athletic teams makes all ECU fans justifiably proud of their pirate heritage. It is the same thing for many North Carolina high schools that have adopted this popular nickname.

But, when we are pushed to explain why we are so enthusiastically romantic about pirates and their mythology, we begin to stutter. It is difficult to explain why we would want to tie ourselves so closely to a group of ruthless, brutal, selfish thieves. These are not the kinds of people we ordinarily would claim for our own.

We simply do not have a good explanation for our love of pirates.

Three new books might help us as we struggle to understand our identification with pirates.

First, there is “Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life & Legend,” a biography by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams. As noted in an earlier column, this book teaches us that Sir Walter’s colonizing efforts on our coast were originally intended to be used as a big base to support the business of capturing Spanish ships carrying South American gold to Spain. Queen Elizabeth authorized and encouraged such privateering. But there was a thin line between privateering and piracy. So you could say, and not be far from the mark, that North Carolina’s close association with pirates began with the earliest European contact with our land.

Second, “The Jefferson Key,” a thriller by Steve Berry and already a New York Times bestseller, is based on the premise that privateers helped win the Revolutionary War for George Washington by disrupting British commercial shipping. That is at least partially true.

In the book, which is fiction, Washington was so grateful for the service of the privateers that he gave several North Carolina families the right to attack and seize the commerce of America’s enemies in perpetuity. These fictional families, led by a complicated man named Quentin Hale, live on posh estates near Bath.

Even more disturbing, when Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy tried to limit their perpetual authority to engage in privateering, these North Carolina families arranged for their assassinations.

Thirdly, Michael Parker’s novel, “The Watery Part of the World,” set on the Outer Banks, opens in 1812 when a group of land-based North Carolina pirates seize a grounded schooner carrying Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of former Vice President Aaron Burr and wife of the governor of South Carolina.

In this story, the pirates butcher most of the crew and passengers. Theodosia survives only to find herself in a community of pirates run by a terroristic dictator. Without apology, these thieves draw to the shore where they will run aground. They attach a lantern to the neck of an old horse and walk it up and down the beach. At night the bobbing light looks like another ship sailing in a safe area. Nags Head gets its name from this activity.

Michael Parker’s fictional land-based pirates on the Outer Banks are as evil and brutal a bunch as you could ever imagine. His book is a wonderful read and a great adventure story. But I hope that the cruelty of our pirate forebears on the Outer Banks is exaggerated.

Put on your eye patches, wear those funny hats, and hold on to your plastic swords – we North Carolinians are going to be pirates to the end.


Home-Bound Holiday Weekend…

This weekend officially kicks off the summer travel season.  The highways and skyways are full of beach, mountain and Vegas-bound folks ready to get their summer started. 
I had a shot at spending the next four days in paradise.  Two weeks ago my friend, Julie Paddison, asked me if I wanted to head to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  She needed a roommate for four nights at an adult-only all-inclusive Club Med.  Visions of pure white sugar cane sand and exotic cocktails adorned with colorful umbrellas danced in my head.  A new destination that I could cross off my bucket list was just on the horizon.  Every cell in my body said YES!  I had two days to make a decision.  That’s when the over-analyzing started.  A foreign dose of pragmatism hijacked my brain.  I was challenging the package price and making excuses instead of allowing my naturally adventurous and spontaneous nature to take control.  My final decision would seal Julie’s fate as well.  If I go, she can go….if not, we’re both out.  Sorry Julie!  I’ve been kicking myself all day!
So, instead of boarding a plane bound for paradise Friday morning I took my own advice from last week’s column and started to purge my piles.  I filed a stack of recipes and culled through 2008 Holiday cards.  Exciting stuff, eh?!  But what better to do on a rainy day!  My goal this weekend is to continue the cleansing process with closet piles and bulging files.  Hopefully I’ll get to a movie and maybe even a day trip to the coast.
You’re probably packing or possibly already on the road for your own weekend adventure.  Staying home?  You’re not alone.  And it’s not the end of the world.  Here’s a list of ideas to fill your time—some constructive, some purely for fun.
  • Clean, organize, purge.  It might be the garage, office files, photo albums or your wardrobe.  For inspiration and steps on closet cleansing refer to last week’s column.  Once you finish a project you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment.
  • Sale shopping.  Now that you’ve lightened the load around the house and purged some items, you have permission to shop again.  Take advantage of the holiday weekend sales and update your summer wardrobe with a pair of new white skinny jeans or shorts.   Add some summer accessories like a colorful straw tote or a stylish hat to look and stay cool. Remember the rule.  One new item in means one item out.  
  • Pamper yourself.  You’ve saved money by not traveling this weekend, so at least treat yourself to a spa day with a manicure, pedicure or massage.  Grab a friend or your mate for twice the fun.
  • Read.  Dust off the stack of unread books by your nightstand and get lost.  This is the perfect escape without going anywhere.   
  • Video chat.  It’s the next best thing to being there.  Imagine connecting live with friends and family across the globe.  Not technologically savvy, you say?  Think again.  Your laptop likely has a built-in webcam.  If not, you can pick up an inexpensive external webcam at your local electronics store.  Follow the simple directions to install.  Then sign up for an account on Skype (www.Skype.com) for free.  It only takes a couple of minutes to enroll.  Soon you will be talking face-to-face with your grandkids in Texas or your cousin stationed in Japan.  The wonders of modern technology are just a few steps away!
I’ve barely scratched the surface with what you can do at home and around the Triangle this weekend.  Find a festival, join a wine tasting or host an impromptu Memorial Day potluck.  Start your summer exercise program with a walk around the neighborhood and some much needed yard work.  Tackle that endless To-Do-List.  Come Monday, give yourself a break and reflect on what this weekend is all about.  I salute you!     

These are my thoughts on a holiday weekend at home.  Share your ideas below.