Protecting Agaisnt Zika and Other Insect Borne Diseases
With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Zika virus an international public health emergency and no vaccine to prevent contracting the virus and no drug to treat it, the best way to not get it is to not get bit by mosquitos. Easier said than done, right? I should know! I’m the one that brought you “Your Definitive Guide to Repelling Mosquitos (and Other Bugs).”
I hate mosquitos and I avoid traveling to areas with a high rate of mosquito transmitted diseases because it is almost 100% sure that I would be bit and get sick. I’m fortunate to have been to Brazil before the Zika outbreak but with the Olympics starting, chances are that Zika will spread worldwide. I’m not trying to incite a panic. You should still check out Brazil because it is awesome but be sure to take precautions.
What is Zika?
Zika symptoms themselves do not sound that bad. Anyone can get sick for up to a week with fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, and other symptoms but the real risk is for pregnant women or people who plan on getting pregnant (men and women) since Zika can also be transmitted sexually. Zika increases the risk for babies being born with microcephaly. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of babies born with abnormally small heads which is from incomplete brain development.
Most people do not even get sick. Only about 20% notice any symptoms but that doesn’t’ mean it won’t affect pregnancies. There has been one report (as of July 8, 2016) of an elderly American man dying who had Zika but not necessarily from Zika. It may have contributed to the man’s death but doctors are not sure how.
Don’t Go There
The easiest way to not get Zika or any other mosquito born illness is to not travel to infected areas. While this can be easily done and is super cheap since you’re not going anywhere, you’re also not going anywhere. This is the most bummer of the measures.
If you want to continue exploring the world, the next sure-fire way to not get bit is by covering up. I reviewed a more form fitting mosquito net jacket and pants. Really any clothing will do as long as it doesn’t sit on your skin (since the mosquitos will bite through it). What I have dubbed my “sexy mosquito net jacket” is just a more stylish version of the cheaper nets that go over clothes and may be a bit more breathable in hotter temps, but get what you can afford because it will be cheaper than getting sick!
If you cannot bring yourself to don the nets because it would ruin your image on your instagram fashion account, there are a series of repellents you can spray yourself with. Since I use a lot, I have listed more natural products in my last review but Consumer Reports just got done with a round of testing on mosquito/bug repellents and here are the top 3:
#1 – Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula with 20% Picaridin – It got a 96/100. Tests show 8 hours of effectiveness against Aedes (carry Zika) and Culex mosquitos and 8.5 hours against Deer Ticks (carry Limes Disease). It is a pump spray and costs about $8.25 for a bottle. It has a “Good” rating for damage to materials.
#2 – Ben’s 30% Deet Tick and Insect Wilderness Formula – With a 93/100, tests show 7.5 hours of effectiveness against Aedes mosquitoes, 8 hours against Culex mosquitoes, and 8.5 hours against Deer Ticks. This is an aerosal spray and is $8.00 a bottle with a “Good” rating for damage.
#3 – Repel Lemon Eucalyptus – Earning 87/100, this was the only Deet-free product that made the list and it did very well at #3 . I have a bottle of this under my sink and recommend it. It uses 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus and protects wearers for 7 hours against Aedes mosquitoes and Deer Ticks and 8 hours against Culex mosquitoes. It is a pump spray costing $7.50 a bottle and has an “Excellent” rating for not damaging materials it is sprayed on (but it is an oil).
Consumer Reports also came up with a list of tips for applying.
- Tests show that concentrations of 30 percent provide the same protection against mosquitoes as higher percentages for up to 8 hours. But higher concentrations of deet have been linked to rashes, disorientation, and seizures. That’s why Consumer Reports says you should avoid mosquito repellents with more than 30 percent deet and not use it at all on infants younger than 2 months.Women who are pregnant or breast feeding can safely use deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535, according to the EPA, if they are applied properly.
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing—never put it on under clothing. Use just enough to cover and only for as long as needed; heavy doses don’t work better.
- Don’t apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin or immediately after shaving.
- When applying to your face, spray first on your hands, then rub in, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and using sparingly around ears.
- Don’t let young children apply. Instead, put it on your own hands, then rub it on. Limit use on children’s hands, because they often put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
- Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating or drinking.
- At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
I hope this report puts your minds at ease about Zika and allows you to keep exploring!
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