Beware Mosquitoes, Even Into Fall

Eight people have died this year from Eastern equine encephalitis, a disease caused by a mosquito-borne virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, five to 10 cases of the virus are reported nationwide each year.

Symptoms of EEE, as the virus is known, include chills, fever, and fatigue, but it can develop into encephalitis or brain swelling, which could lead to convulsions or coma. About 30 percent of people who contract EEE die. Although most of this year’s cases have been in the northeastern U.S., three people have also died in Michigan.

With cooler fall weather, mosquito populations begin to decrease. But it’s not until the first frost that they go away, returning in the spring.

Whatever the season, the best way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases, of course, is by avoiding mosquito bites. Here are EWG’s tips for avoiding mosquito and other bug bites:

  • When outdoors, use nets and/or fans to protect eating areas. Place nets over strollers and baby carriers.
  • Reduce skin exposure by wearing long pants, long sleeves and socks, and by tucking in clothes.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding ground by checking and draining areas for standing water, including trash bins, old tires, containers or planters.  

Bug repellents can protect against bites, and the EWG Guide to Bug Repellents can help you figure out which one to use. We recommend choosing repellents with one of the following active ingredients, which offer adequate protection and have low toxicity concerns when used correctly:

  • Picaridin.
  • DEET (less than 30 percent).
  • IR3535 (20 percent).

When using bug repellents, remember to:

  • Use products with the lowest effective concentration of repellent chemicals, particularly on children.
  • Decrease the risk of inhalation by choosing lotion, pump or towelette repellents.
  • Do not use repellents on babies under six months old. Do not use oil of lemon or eucalyptus, also known as PMD, on children under three years old.
  • Make sure to apply permethrin sprays in a well-ventilated area and away from children and pets, since children are often more susceptible to toxins than adults and permethrin is highly toxic to cats.

For more information on top repellent choices, products to avoid and vector-borne illnesses, visit EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents.

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