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EWG Updates Bug Repellent Guide to Focus on Zika Emergency

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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, April 19, 2016

WASHINGTON- The Zika virus has been classified as an international public health emergency, especially for women who are or may become pregnant, but with the right precautions, people can significantly reduce their chances of being bitten by mosquitos that could carry the virus.

The Environmental Working Group has updated its bug repellent guide to give consumers accurate information on the right products for their circumstances.

While no bug repellent is 100 percent effective, EWG’s new analysis found these products to be most effective:

  • DEET at a concentration of 20 to 30 percent
  • Picaridin at 20 percent concentration
  • IR 3535 at 20 percent concentration

In laboratory conditions, these repellents offer strong protection from the Aedes mosquito-- the type known to transmit the Zika virus-- for at least four hours.

“Zika is not to be taken lightly, so it’s important we do all what we can to stem the transmission and spread of this very serious virus,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. “Choosing the right bug repellent is a key element to any plan to protect yourself. We found that products with DEET, Picaridin and IR 3535 are the most effective in fending off Zika-carrying mosquitos.”

EWG scientists found oil of lemon eucalyptus to be less effective.  They concluded that vitamin B1 patches and essential oils were either ineffective or effective only briefly in repelling the Aedes mosquito. For these reasons, EWG does not recommend blends of essential oils to protect against mosquito-borne infection.

“In most other circumstances, EWG would caution pregnant women, or women trying to become pregnant to avoid chemicals when possible,” Lunder said. “But the threat of Zika is so dire that women living in or traveling to areas with mosquito-borne infections must use an effective bug repellent. Men should take precautions too, since, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they can infect their partners through sexual activity.”

In a new article published online, EWG explains what scientists know about the Zika virus and why it is critical that vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and those hoping to get pregnant, take precautions against infection.

Using the right bug repellent can help reduce but not eliminate the possibility that you can be bitten by mosquitos that could carry the Zika pathogen.  EWG advises pregnant women and those who could become pregnant to take additional precautions, including protective clothing, limiting time outdoors and heeding travel notices posted on the CDC website.