If you love the outdoors, it’s a safe bet you’re probably not a fan of mosquitoes. And now that we know certain mosquitoes can carry the Zika virus, they’re even less tolerable.
Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series – read the first article – related to the Zika virus.
In response to the growing threat of the Zika virus, Consumer Reports recently released ratings for mosquito repellents that best protect against bites from the aedes aegypti mosquito. The carrier of the virus can be found in 30 states, including North Carolina.
DEET fares best against bites
Your best bet is to use repellents with DEET, according to Consumer Reports. Other good choices include Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents with the ingredients picaridin and 2-undecanone.
The best-rated products were Sawyer Picaridin, Natrapel 8 Hour and Off! Deepwoods VIII. Each kept mosquitoes away for about eight hours, according to Consumer Reports, so reapply as needed because mosquitoes bite anytime, day or night.
Get the most out of your repellent
Stephanie Strollo, MD, an epidemiologist at Carolinas HealthCare System, studies patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans.
To best defend against mosquito bites, Dr. Strollo says to use a repellent with active ingredients like DEET and picaridin, which the CDC says are safe for pregnant women, nursing women and babies older than two months. Protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, serve as another line of defense. In the summer, apply sunscreen first.
“If you live in or are traveling to an area where the Zika virus is widespread, make sure to protect yourself from mosquitoes,” says Dr. Strollo. “The mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus can bite any time of day so use mosquito repellent all day long.”
Avoid areas with Zika
Zika is especially dangerous for pregnant women, or women considering pregnancy, because it increases the baby’s risk of developing brain and birth defects in the womb. The CDC recommends pregnant women postpone all trips to areas where transmission of Zika virus infection has been confirmed.
“Any pregnant women living in or traveling to areas with moderate to high risk for the Aedes aegypti mosquito should take mosquito prevention precautions,” says Dr. Strollo.
Dr. Strollo also says people should take proper precautions around their homes this summer. This includes dumping standing water in planters, pools, toys, bird baths, flower pots and trash containers.
Worried about Zika? Seek help
Catherine Passaretti, MD, the medical director of infection prevention for Carolinas HealthCare System, says Zika symptoms are similar to many other diseases and can be easily confused with the common cold.
“If you live in or travel to an area where the Zika virus is widespread and you feel sick within two weeks of your return, be sure to tell your doctor immediately,” says Dr. Passaretti. “If you travel while you are pregnant or in the eight weeks prior to conception be sure to let your obstetrician know so that appropriate testing can be performed if necessary.”
The CDC works with international, state and local public health officials to keep the public informed about Zika and provide travel-related guidance. Learn how to create your own Zika prevention kit.
Prevent Mosquito Bites
Learn how to avoid mosquito bites if you’re in an area affected by Zika:
- Pack insect repellent; reapply every few hours. Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- Apply sunscreen first, then insect repellent.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room with open windows. Mosquitoes can live indoors and will bite all hours of the day. Try to choose lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors.
- Buy a bed net before traveling overseas. Permethrin-treated bed nets provide the most protection.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants; mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing.
- And keep track of the latest CDC travel advisories.