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Mosquito avoidance

Mosquito avoidance
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4 easy ways to avoid mosquito-borne diseases

Those irritating itchy bumps that form when a mosquito bites you are called hives and they are the result of your body’s immune response to the bite. It breaks open capillaries, causing fluid to collect under the skin. Hives are uncomfortable, but not the worst thing about a mosquito bite! Did you know that mosquitoes can infect you with microorganisms that cause serious or even fatal diseases?

Parasites carried by mosquitoes include:

  • Plasmodium that causes malaria
  • botflies, whose larvae live in your skin
  • the filariasis worm, which causes the disfiguring disease elephantiasis
  • dirofilarial parasites

The viruses which a mosquito could infect you with include: Dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, Chikungunya, Zika fever, various forms of encephalitis, including Japanese encephalitis.

And finally, mosquitoes can give you a bacterial infection called tularemia which leaves you with skin ulcers and a fever.

If any of these diseases are endemic in a region you may be sure that the authorities are quietly disrupting the mosquitoes’ lifecycle. They do this by spraying and by ensuring stagnant water that could harbour larvae does not collect in drains or gutters.

But is there anything you need to do to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses? You will need an international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever to travel to certain regions; and there is a shot you can get for Japanese encephalitis. Also, anti-malarials are available as well. But to avoid the other illnesses you will have to practise mosquito-bite avoidance. Here are some tips.

1.       Time it right

The mosquitoes that carry Dengue and Chikungunya bite during the day, while the mozzies that carry the malaria parasite bite at night.

2.       Insect repellent

You can get more than three hours of protection from an insect repellent containing 50% DEET, though you may have to reapply more often if you are swimming or sweating a lot. Your DEET should go over your sunscreen for day-time protection Be aware that it reduces the effectiveness of sunscreen, but factor 30 and above will offer plenty of protection. Keep insect repellent out of your eyes and mouth, and away from any broken skin. The Government of Canada has advice on insect bite prevention.

3.       Dress for mosquito avoidance

Mosquitoes cannot bite through loose-fitting clothing with good limb coverage. Natural fibres can be treated with a bit of DEET – but keep it away from man-made fabrics because it can cause them to melt.

4.       Screens and nets

The most mosquito-proof sleeping space is an air-conditioned room with closed windows and doors. Window and door screens are helpful, but need to be in good repair. And finally, if bednets are present in a room, assume that they are needed and not just decoration! You may wish to carry your own mosquito net: there are a number of lightweight options on the market that are suitable for beds and for camping.

5.       Get the shots

If you need malaria prophylaxis, shots for yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis as well as other travel vaccinations in Alberta, make an appointment at one of Canadian Travel Clinics’ vaccination centres.