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Bug Off: Insect Repellent Awareness Day

Tuesday, June 3rd 2014 is the first ever Insect Repellent Awareness Day, launched in the UK by launched by scientists at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to highlight the importance of using repellents, especially when travelling to tropical countries where insects can spread disease. The campaign also aims to dispel the many myths surrounding insect repellents and other ways to protect against bites.

The team recommends applying repellents containing 20-50% DEET to the skin when in countries with diseases spread by insects, such as malaria and dengue fever. Although medicine and vaccines can prevent some diseases, they don’t prevent them all. In those cases, stopping the bite in the first place is the best line of defense.

People have expressed concerns about the safety of DEET, which led to a number of investigations. However, the scientists behind Bug Off have carried out a review of published studies and conclude that there is insufficient evidence to show that DEET is unsafe. They also conclude that the benefits of avoiding disease-spreading insect bites outweigh any theoretical risks associated with applying DEET to the skin. The review was published in June 2014 in the open access journal Parasites and Vectors.

In their analysis of animal research and other safety assessments carried out previously, the researchers conclude that there is no evidence of association between severe adverse events and recommended DEET use.

They also looked at case reports of people suffering encephalopathy (brain condition) following exposure to DEET in the 1980s. The researchers state that, even when allowing for underreporting, “the incidence of 14 reported cases of DEET-associated encephalopathy since 1957 is small when considered against the context of an estimated 200 million applications of DEET worldwide each year”.
Insect Repellent Awareness Day aims to dispel myths and misconceptions about how to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects which can leave people at risk of harm to their health.

Key facts about insect repellents:

*If you are travelling to countries with diseases spread by insects then using insect repellents containing DEET is recommended.

*DEET – a repellent applied to the skin or clothes to ward off biting insects – should not be confused with DDT, which is an insecticide designed to kill insects. N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated DEET, protects against mosquito bites, tick bites, flea bites, chiggers, and many other biting insects.

*There is no evidence that changes in diet, for example eating marmite or garlic, will prevent biting.

*Repellents wear off in time and need to be reapplied, especially in warm climates and during activities that involve a lot of movement.

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