Ever since the first large outbreak of Zika in 2007, more and more people have been focused on gearing up to combat disease carrying insects, especially mosquitos. All the preparing is done with good reason: on February 1st, 2016, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This definitely raises the question of how to avoid the virus’ carrier, the mosquito. Fortunately, there are multiple effective answers.
Probably the easiest way to incorporate prevention into everyday life is wearing clothes with a built-in insect shield. One popular brand, White Sierra, carries an entire collection with integrated Insect Shield technology. The line is complete with everything from shirts to pullovers to hats and accessories, making it a simple, stylish solution. One of the best aspects of this technology is being completely odorless and invisible. It’s durable, too, lasting through 70 washes. Insect Shield technology utilizes another important tool to combat insects: Permethrin.
Permethrin is a synthetic chemical that acts like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. In addition to being woven into fabrics, it can also be used directly on clothing and gear you already own. Sawyer has a Permethrin insect repellent that kills ticks, mosquitos, chiggers, mites, and 55 other insects. However, this repellent only lasts 6 weeks or 6 washings, making it a slightly less economical option. However, it is very good for treating items you already own. It can also be used on your tent, where its full potency lasts for a whopping 40 days of direct sunlight. It is very important to note that Permethrin is not safe to use on skin, and it consumers should follow manufacturer’s directions regarding drying times.
Some folks prefer the classic topical solution to insects. One frequently used option is DEET, a colorless chemical with a faint odor that doesn’t dissolve easily in water. DEET is very commonly known and used today, as it has been used since 1946 by the U.S. Army and been available for general public use since 1957. Concentrations of DEET range from 4% to 100%. The concentration does not indicate effectiveness, but how long it lasts. For short hikes, 30% DEET should be effective, but for full day excursions, 100% DEET is a much more economical solution.
A newer addition to the topical insect repellent family is Picaridin. It is a synthetic compound first made in the 1980s and has been widely used in Europe and Australia, but has only been available in the United States since 2005. It is made to emulate the natural compound piperine, which is found in the plants used to produce black pepper. It repels insects and makes them less likely to bite and keeps mosquitos from sensing their prey. However, it does not kill insects. It is also less toxic to wildlife compared to other options, and has been noted as impeding green algae growth.
No matter a person’s decision on prevention, it is important to follow all manufacturers’ directions for safe and effective use and to use the prevention regularly. Information on different pesticides can be found on the manufacturer’s website, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website, and the National Pesticide Information Center’s webpage.