With winter is in full swing, what better time could there be to take a vacation or cruise to a tropical destination? While the sun and sand may be therapeutic, a vector-borne disease most certainly will not be. Several mosquito-borne illnesses can be medically important to travelers. For good measure, it would be wise to consult the Center of Disease Control website for more information about the location you will be visiting. In the meantime, here are a few tips to optimize protection against mosquitoes and help reduce the risk of diseases they transmit.
1. Be aware of peak exposure times and places that mosquitoes inhabit. Although mosquitoes may bite at any time of day, peak biting activity for vectors of some diseases (such as dengue and Zika) is during daylight hours. Yet, vectors of other diseases (such as malaria) are most active in twilight periods or in the evening after dark. So, avoiding the outdoors or taking preventive actions during peak biting hours can help reduce the risk of exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses.
2. Wear appropriate clothing and minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and hats. I realize it is not the beachiest of attire but tucking in shirts and wearing closed shoes instead of sandals will reduce the risk of mosquito bites. Furthermore, repellents or insecticides, such as permethrin, can be applied directly to clothing and gear for added protection. There is even permethrin-treated clothing that will retain repellent activity through multiple washes.
3. Utilize bed nets when your lodging is not effectively screened or when sleeping outdoors. Bed nets can be vital in providing protection and reducing discomfort caused by biting insects. If bed nets do not reach the floor, tuck them underneath mattresses to ensure protection. Also, bed nets are most effective when they are treated with a pyrethroid insecticide.
4. Use insecticides and spatial repellents whenever venturing outdoors. The Center of Disease Control has evaluated published information and data available from EPA to identify several types of EPA-registered products that provide repellent activity sufficient to help reduce the bites of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Products containing the following active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection: DEET (Off!, Cutter), Picaridin (Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus), and Oil of lemon eucalyptus (Repel). Regardless of what product is used, if travelers start to get insect bites they should reapply the repellent per the label instructions, try a different product, or, if possible, leave the area.
So, no matter where your destination is for vacation, I not only hope it is relaxing, but that these tips help keep you and your family safe.
Mutebi, J.P., W. A. Hawley, and W. G. Brogdon. 2017. “Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks, and Other Arthropods.” Counseling and Advice for Travelers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/the-pre-travel-consultation/protection-against-mosquitoes-ticks-other-arthropods.
Lupi, E., C. Hatz, and P. Schlagenhauf. 2013. The efficacy of repellents against Aedes, Anopheles, Culex and Ixodes spp.—a literature review. Travel Med Infect Dis. 11(6):374–411.