Recently I caught the tail end of a news story in which they were talking about a new disease spread by mosquitos. The reporter said it wasn't a question of if but rather when we would see it in St. Louis. What were they talking about? -- Robert Beard, of Swansea
As if West Nile, malaria and St. Louis encephalitis weren't enough to worry about, get ready for another disease spread by those pesky mosquitoes: chikungunja (CHICK-un-GUN-yuh).
While it is primarily found in Africa, East Asia and the Caribbean, U.S. health officials are on alert because so many Americans vacation in the Caribbean. As a result, several states -- including Tennessee and North Carolina -- have reported tourists bringing the disease back home after a trip.
Although the virus is not fatal, it can leave you in a world of hurt. Among the symptoms are high fever, headaches, rash and severe joint pain that can last for weeks. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems usually suffer most.
From there, the news only gets worse: There is no vaccine or even specific treatment for the disease, which was first identified in East Africa in the 1950s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Equally worrisome is that the Caribbean has experienced a major outbreak this year -- more than 100,000 cases -- so experts expect many more than the usual two dozen tourists per year who come back with it.
One final concern: Most people usually are wary of mosquitos that bite from dusk to dawn. In this case, the offending insect is of a variety that bites during the day, and the female can live a month.
So far, there has been no known case of an individual being infected from a mosquito bite in the U.S., and the disease is not spread human to human. But a mosquito that bites an infected human can give it to another human, which is all the more reason to make sure to empty any standing water around your home, wear insect repellent on exposed skin and treat clothes with permethrin. And if you're wondering, insect repellents should be applied over sunscreens, according to the CDC.
Lick that cigarette: If you want personal service, you'll want to visit Lee's Variety and Lee's Sports in Nashville.
When the old-fashioned five-and-dime heard about Linda Perkins' quest for candy cigarettes, it not only told the Pocahontas woman that it handled them, it mailed some to her.
"So, we gained a new customer, which is good nowadays," Mike Kirsch wrote me from the store, which is still family-owned after 60 years. "We order about four boxes (with 24 packs) every week with customers buying a box at a time. They tell us they cannot find them anywhere and that they use them to quit smoking. Thanks for the great article."
In the meantime, my e-mailbox has been lit up with candy cigarette sightings. Janet Sloan, for example, suggests Keil's Antiques and Collectibles at 26 E. Main St. in Belleville (along with Cracker Barrel for Bonomo Turkish Taffy and other delights).
Other possibilities: Switzer's across from the fairgrounds in Belleville (thanks to Robin Luhning); Five Below in Fairview Heights (David Nichols); Outback Video in Breese (Phillip Beckmann); and Farm Fresh stores.
Jumping the gun: When a reader recently asked whether he could display a shotgun on a rack in his pickup, I naturally assumed he wanted he wanted to show it off au naturel like some good ol' boy from "Duck Dynasty," so I told him no.
However, according to a pamphlet from the Illinois State Police and Department of Natural Resources, you can transport a firearm on a gun rack in the back window of you truck IF it is unloaded and encased. Somehow, though, I don't think the sight of that would leave Boss Hogg shaking in his shoes.
No lie: At least one reader took me to task for using snopes.com as a source to combat the urban legends that have grown up around Barack Obama's use of the executive order. The reader says he has found a variety of mistakes on snopes and no longer trusts the site.
While not even the Answer Man is infallible, snopes is dead on with this one. In this particular story, snopes was refuting an e-mail that, among other things, said Obama had signed 923 executive orders in his first 40 months. Moreover, one of those orders allows the government to take over all communications, and Ronald Reagan signed only eight executive orders in his eight years.
All of these contentions are demonstrably false. In fact, the individual orders it criticizes Obama for are numbered in the 10000s or 11000s -- or so it says. Obama's executive orders actually started with No. 13849.
A fun fact from my friend Joe Quevreaux: What do the songs "Star Dust" and "Blue Skirt Waltz" have in common?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: You probably know that synonyms are words with similar meanings (buy-purchase, big-large, etc.) while antonyms are words with opposite meanings (tall-short, fast-slow, etc.). So, what are heteronyms? They are words that are spelled the same but, through quirks in the English language, have different meanings and even different pronunciations. That's why you can tear paper and tear up at a funeral. While threading her needle, a sewer fell into the sewer. You probably even can think of rare triple heteronyms: The mobile baby crawled over to see the mobile on his crib in Mobile, Alabama.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com or call 618-239-2465.