Protect yourself from mosquitoes (and disease!) at home and abroad

“Don’t underestimate mosquitoes”

Whether you’re planning a backyard barbeque or travel abroad, protecting yourself from mosquitoes and other biting critters should be a priority, health experts say.

Federal health officials are warning about an uptick in cases of West Nile virus, which has been reported in 42 states this summer, includingTexas. Four people have died nationwide.

“We started to hear a couple of weeks back about cases of West Nile in Dallas, and here it’s shown up just more recently in Travis County,” said Danielle Fryer, RN and clinical manager of ADC’s Travel Clinic.

West Nile is one of several serious diseases spread by the bite of a mosquito. Other mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever, are typically encountered by travelers outside of the US.

With West Nile, most people have no symptoms, but one out of every 150 people infected with the virus will have severe symptoms. These can be serious and even lead to paralysis and death.

Mosquitoes that spread West Nile usually feed dusk to dawn, but they also feed in the evening hours.

Protect yourself

Mosquito biting skin

“The best thing you can do to protect yourself is use a repellent,” Fryer said.  “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a repellant with 30 percent to 50 percent DEET.”

Fryer says you should use repellant on areas of exposed skin. When the weather is cooler, try wearing long-sleeves and long pants to help deter bites.

“They even make products that you can treat your clothing with so you don’t get bit through the clothing. It’s just an extra deterrent for the mosquitoes not to bite you,” she said.

Don’t forget the repellant when you travel. Fryer says diseases like yellow fever are turning up in areas that haven’t seen mosquito borne illnesses in the recent past.

“When you start traveling world-wide – more tropical places are going to have issues,” she said. That includes some destinations at higher altitudes, too.

Fryer says not to underestimate mosquitoes, even if you think you won’t be bitten.

“We often times hear, ‘Oh, I don’t get bothered by them,’ she said.  “When you hear of an outbreak, you need to treat it like you could become ill. A lot of people don’t get ill, but don’t underestimate [mosquitoes]. Anytime you’re going outdoors – exposed skin needs that layer of repellant. Just be wise.”