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Brazilians Take A Swing At Mosquitoes With The Zap Racket

James Hider, the reporter's husband, wields the zapping racket to kill some pesky mosquitoes at their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
James Hider, the reporter's husband, wields the zapping racket to kill some pesky mosquitoes at their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

It's summer right now and I'm sure you've noticed them: small, insidious buzzing — mosquitoes. In Brazil, they are potentially deadly. It's the place where the mosquito-born virus dengue fever is most prevalent.

Enter the Zapping Racket. As the name implies, it is an electrified tennis racket that kills mosquitoes.

I know, right? Genius.

On a recent afternoon, while reporting this story, I was waving my hands frantically in the air trying to kill a mosquito with said racket while my husband James and his sister Claire — who is visiting from the U.K. — looked on. After a victorious sizzle I confronted my husband.

"How would you describe my racket technique?" I asked.

"Pretty poor," he answered, rather judgmentally in my opinion.

However, just as he said that, another mosquito accidentally hit my racket. Apparently I don't even need to try to kill mosquitoes; they just naturally come to me.

My husband immediately busted my self-congratulatory bubble.

"I think it was a suicide," he said.

Though common in other parts of the world, in Brazil the racket is ubiquitous: street sellers hawk them, they are sold in stores and every house has one. They are deeply satisfying to use. The rackets even have a little lightning bolt on them so they look like a superhero weapon. When I am using one, I feel like I am a force for good, slaying a relentless enemy.

In our house, as you can tell, using the racket gets a little competitive. My husband says his forehand technique is superior.

"It brings out the hunter instinct and it's guilt-free, because nobody likes mosquitoes and I am protecting my 2-year-old," he says rather grandly.

But the real reason he likes the zapping racket: "They are addictive. It's like playing tennis, but existential death tennis, with bugs."

I've been in some houses where people actually cheer after a particularly fruitful zapping.

Now, this might seem cruel or unsavory, but mosquitoes in Brazil are a round-the-clock menace. You have the ones that come out at dusk and bite you at night; they might carry yellow fever or malaria. And then you have the ones that bite you during the day, and they could be carrying dengue fever.

It's awful.

So a zapping racket is actually not only fun but rather necessary. And I'm not the only one who gets that superhero feeling when they use it.

Claire, my husband's sister, had never used a zap racket before she came to visit us. The other day I caught her waving it around in the air like a saber.

Needless to say, she is taking one back to Scotland when she leaves.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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