How to Avoid Catching Dengue Fever and Zika Virus

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

Lately there have been a slew of mosquito borne diseases in the news.  Hawaii has had an outbreak of dengue fever, and now, the Zika virus is causing illness and even birth defects.

Even if you don’t live in areas where dengue and Zika virus are prevalent, there are other dangerous diseases that can affect you:

  • Malaria
  • Brain inflammation/encephalitis
  • Yellow fever
  • West Nile virus
  • Chikungunya

A simple bite can cause severe itching and rashes.  Pets can also fall victim to mosquito borne diseases:  dogs and cats can get  heartworm disease from a mosquito bite; horses can also be afflicted by encephalitis.  I did not give a thorough description of symptoms, but the CDC has a whole section devoted to Mosquito Borne Diseases

Mosquito-Borne Diseases can easily spread during a disaster

While things are “normal” we can rely on cities and counties to protect against the problem but in the aftermath of a disaster there may not be services available.  If services such as trash pickup, street cleaning are not maintained, the problem could get worse.  If potholes are not filled, pools and other water sources are not treated properly they will become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

How to protect yourself

If at all possible, avoid traveling to areas that have the mosquitoes that carry the virus.  At this time, the Zika virus is widespread in Brazil and a few other countries; travelers are advised to exercise caution.  One the other hand you may already have travel plans that you’d rather not cancel.  I probably would not pass up a trip to Hawaii even if they have the dengue fever carrying mosquitoes.

Avoiding mosquitoes is your best defense.

What Attracts Mosquitoes?

Moisture and standing water are the obvious ones, and we’ve all heard public service announcements to check the premises and eliminate any puddles.  But mosquitoes are also attracted to few other things:

  • Sweat
  • Carbon dioxide – you give off more carbon dioxide when hot and exercising
  • Lactic acid – also given off during exercise, and after eating salty foods
  • Floral or fruity scents
  • Dark clothing
  • Dark and dense foliage

Eliminate Possible Breeding Areas

Mosquitoes breed in standing or stagnant water such as empty pots, puddles, gutters, pet bowls, empty trash cans etc.  Check your yard and even your balcony.  Remove all possible areas where they can breed.

Ways to Repel Mosquitoes

I know there are many commercial products containing DEET that are effective but I was interested in less harsh remedies.  I’ve tried citronella candles, but have had limited success – your experience may vary.  Here are other ways to avoid getting bitten:

  1. Wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves, and apply insect repellent on exposed areas.
  2. Ceiling fan or floor fan:  When on “fast” setting, fans can generate a two-mile an hour wind, that mosquitoes are unable to fly against.
  3. Thai lemon grass plant:  If grown inside or outside the house, this herb repels mosquites naturally
  4. Catnip oil: Pro – known to work better than DEET and for a longer period;          Con – cats may follow you around.
  5. Herbal Armor Repellant:  This contains a combination of herbal oils and has gotten rave reviews from testers.  Also available for pets.
  6. Avon Skin so Soft with Picardin:  Although originally marketed as a skin moisturizer, the product was discovered to have bug repelling properties.
  7. Dryer sheets:  Some users report great success by rubbing dryer sheets, bu the downside is you get white powdery stuff on you.  I am a bit “iffy” on this due to having allergy prone skin, but I thought I’d include it for informational purposes.
  8. Other essential oils such as peppermint, citronella, tea tree, clove oil, cinnamon oil, lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, or a combination.

Please be aware that even “natural” remedies may have side effects.  Exercise care when trying them out and make sure you test a small area for allergic reactions.  Also, some herbs such as tea tree oil are not recommended for pets.   Any repellents have to be reapplied after sweating, swimming, applying sunscreen, and after a couple of hours once absorbed by the skin.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

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  1. I can attest to the dryer sheet effectiveness, when doing Guard duty in Florida, we’d put dryer sheets inside the pocket of our garrison caps to keep away mosquitoes. Seemed to work really.

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