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Zap Racket Helps Brazilians Deal With Mosquitoes

Aug 26, 2015
Originally published on August 26, 2015 8:10 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, if Serena Williams is looking for a stronger opponent, I've got one - Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. She's our NPR colleague in Brazil. Her secret weapon - the zapper racket. She's been practicing with it on mosquitoes. OK, fine - killing mosquitoes is actually what it's designed for. And mosquitoes can be deadly in Brazil. The mosquito-born dengue virus is a huge problem there. This encore presentation begins with Lourdes testing out that zapper racket with her family.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Here's a - well, I'm trying to kill it. Here's one. Hold on.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's me, waving my hands frantically in the air trying to kill a mosquito, while my husband, James, and his sister, Claire, who's visiting from the U.K., look on. What I'm using to slay said mosquito is the Zapping Racket.

So how would you describe my racket technique?

JAMES HIDER: Pretty poor, although, you just killed one apparently by accident. I think it was a suicide.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So a Zapping Racket is, as the name implies, an electrified tennis racket that kills mosquitoes. I know right? Genius. It's common in other parts of the world, but in Brazil, the racket is ubiquitous. Street sellers hawk them, they're sold in stores, every single house has one, and they are deeply, deeply satisfying to use. The rackets even have a little lightning bolt on them so they look like a superhero weapon. But it takes technique to use right, at least according to my husband.

HIDER: I think the forehand is my favorite. Yeah, it brings out the hunter instinct of it. And it's guilt free because nobody likes mosquitoes, and, you know, I am protecting my 2-year-old child.

CASSENIA: I want to go park. I want to go park.

HIDER: (Laughter) They're addictive. It's like playing tennis, but existential death tennis with bugs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Listen to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF RACKET ZAPPING)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is the sweet sound of mosquitoes hitting the racket. 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, and 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 - not fun. But the zap racket is fun.

CLAIRE: It's fantastic. It's quite therapeutic. I thrash my arms about a lot.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Claire, my husband's sister. She'd never used a zapping racket before she came to visit us. Her technique...

Kind of using the racket and sort of swishing it around over your head like a saber.

CLAIRE: I'm trying to make sure I cover every inch of the room (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Needless to say, she's taking one back to Scotland when she leaves. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Serena Williams of insect zappers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.