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Which Mosquito Repellents Work Best Against Zika?

Which Mosquito Repellents Work Best Against Zika?
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By    |   Friday, 03 June 2016 04:19 PM

The list of mosquito-borne diseases grows longer every year: West Nile virus, encephalitis, chikungunya. This summer, health experts warn that the resurgent Zika virus will pose a significant threat in the U.S., taking its place alongside other infectious diseases that have emerged in recent years.

Whether your summer plans call for a camping vacation, a trip to South America (where Zika is rampant), or simply enjoying the Great Outdoors in your own backyard, you should make sure to arm yourself with insect repellent to ward off disease-carrying bugs.

To help, Consumer Reports has released new rankings of mosquito repellents that offer the best protection against Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, the type that carry the Zika virus.

The new report comes in the wake of World Health Organization warnings that Zika has become a global health emergency, linked to serious birth defects, and is now in 62 countries.

The Zika virus can make anyone sick for up to a week with fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, and other symptoms. But it's especially dangerous for women who are pregnant because it boosts the risk of babies born with microcephaly, a condition marked by an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged pregnant women against travel to dozens of countries where Zika has been reported in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Congress is debating a White House proposal to spend $1.8 billion to fight Zika at home. But in the meantime troubling new signs of the virus’s impact in the U.S. are emerging.

This month officials reported the first “Zika baby” born in the U.S., to a New Jersey mother who gave birth to a child with microcephaly. Another 1,500 more known Zika pregnancies are still to come.

Experts predict the disease will spread in coming months, particularly in Florida, Texas, and other Southern states where the mosquitoes that carry the disease are most prevalent.

Frightening new figures issued by Center for American Progress suggest the toll Zika takes could be significant:
  • As many as 2 million U.S. women will get pregnant this year, nearly half of them in areas where Zika is present.
  • If one in 10 of those women contracts Zika, the CDC estimates 13 percent of their offspring could develop microcephaly.
  • If 13,000 babies are born with the condition, the cost of keeping them alive and providing a lifetime of healthcare could top $130 billion.
Officials point out that there is no vaccine or treatment for the virus, making prevention essential. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed, and the use of repellents are all key ways to avoid mosquito bites.

For its latest rankings, Consumer Reports tested products containing deet or a chemical called IR3535, as well as two plantlike ingredients: lemon eucalyptus and picaridin. Testers also looked at repellents made with natural plant oils, such as geraniol, castor oil, soybean oil, citronella, and rosemary.

The most effective products included Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which each contain 20 percent picaridin, and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. These repellents kept mosquitoes from biting for about eight hours.

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, containing 30 percent lemon eucalyptus, stopped bites for 7 hours. But the IR3535 products didn’t make Consumer Reports’ list of recommended sprays. Neither did products that contained 5 percent picaridin or 7 percent deet.

“We advise skipping products made with natural plant oils, such as California Baby Natural Bug Blend (a blend of citronella, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, and other ingredients) and EcoSmart Organic, (which includes geraniol, rosemary oil, cinnamon oil, and lemongrass oil),” the Consumer Reports authors said.

“None lasted for more than 1 hour against Aedes mosquitoes, and some failed almost immediately. In addition, those products are not registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates skin-applied repellents and evaluates them for safety and effectiveness. Most plant-oil products are exempt from scrutiny by the EPA because the agency considers them to be a minimum risk to human health.”

Women who are pregnant or breast feeding can safely use deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535, according to the EPA.

Other tips for using insect repellents safely and effectively:
  1. Apply repellents sparingly, and only to exposed skin or clothing.
  2. Don’t apply repellents over cuts, wounds, irritated skin, or after shaving.
  3. When applying to your face, spray first on your hands, then rub in, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
  4. Don’t let young children apply repellents themselves.
  5. Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating.
  6. At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.

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Health experts warn that the resurgent Zika virus will pose a significant threat in the U.S. this summer. Your best defense is to arm yourself with insect repellents to ward off Zika. Here's a roundup of the best options.
zika, insect, repellent, mosquito
Friday, 03 June 2016 04:19 PM
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