Mosquitoes spread disease when they feed on blood.

How to Protect Yourself from West Nile, Lyme and Chikungunya — Tom Watson, NJ Licensed Pest Control Professional

Posted on August 22, 2014 · Posted in Chikungunya, Lyme Disease, pest control, ticks

Did you know that less than a quarter (22%) of Americans purchase insect repellent? This may seem surprising as it offers protection from vector-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

A new virus, Chikungunya, has recently been in the news. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and was found for the first time in the Caribbean islands in late 2013. Last month, the first reported case was in Florida. Since August 12, a total of 584 chikungunya virus disease cases have been reported to ArboNET. Only a few states remain untouched. See map below:

States in blue have reported Chikungunya cases.

States in blue have reported Chikungunya cases.

Who is ArboNet?

ArboNET is a national arboviral surveillance system managed by CDC and state health departments. In addition to human disease, ArboNET maintains data on arboviral infections among presumptive viremic blood donors, veterinary disease cases, mosquitoes, dead birds, and sentinel animals. It is passive surveillance system so it is up to doctors to report cases.

Know the symptoms

  • Lyme disease: Common early symptoms include a bull’s-eye rash anywhere on the body, joint pain, chills, fever, fatigue and headache.
  • West Nile virus: Symptoms could include fever, headache and loss of appetite, although in 80% of cases people may have little, if any, symptoms.
  • Chikungunya:  Most common symptoms are fever and joint pain, while some may experience headache, muscle pain, swelling or rash.

How to protect yourself

Many of us think about protecting ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays. We need to think about protecting ourselves from vector-borne diseases in the same way. Since these diseases are transmitted when a mosquito or tick bites and feeds on blood, it makes sense to try to avoid bites. Here are some tips to help you effectively protect your family.

2 is better than 1

Avoid products that combine sunscreen and bug repellent. Yes, it is convenient but that is about it. The repellent can make the sunscreen less effective and the sunscreen can make the repellent more toxic. Use 2 different products.
As a rule, insect repellent should be applied on top of sunscreen and reapplied every 4-6 hours.

What to buy

When buying insect repellent select one containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.

DEET – was developed in the 1940’s for the U.S. Army. Depending on the situation and concentration, DEET provides 2-8 hours of protection. It is effective against mosquitoes, biting flies, midges, chiggers, fleas and ticks. It is considered safe when used according to the label instructions.
Choose a product containing 10-30% DEET. If using on children over 2 years, keep the concentration to 10%. You can spray on clothing but it can damage some fabrics. Best to apply it outside.

Picaridin – has 4-8 hours of effectiveness and doesn’t damage plastics or synthetic materials. Picaridin-based repellents have been overseas and were introduced into the U.S. market in 2005. Avon Skin-So-Soft contains picardin. In addition to mosquitoes, picaridin was tested and found to be effective against biting flies and ticks.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – isolated from the oil of the lemon eucalyptus plant. A 40% formulation appears to provide about 6 hours protection. These repellents show low toxicity, but can be an eye irritant. Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent has a 30% concentration.

IR3535 – is available exclusively through the Avon Corporation as Skin-So-Soft™ Bug Guard Plus. It is labeled for use against mosquitoes, ticks and biting flies. Some studies show that IR3535 provides protection for 4-6 hours, but another study by the USDA found that 25% IR3535 was 10-100x times less effective than DEET.

Here is a link to a great resource I found from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Well, looks like it is time to get spraying! Let me know if you have any questions about this post or any of your pest concerns.   Email Tom at tom@trapsmart.com .