SDSU specialists recommends use of personal repellents as best defense against West Nile

SDSU specialists recommends use of personal repellents as best defense against West Nile Personal repellents offer individuals the best defense against West Nile Virus, South Dakota State University specialists said.

Jim Wilson, SDSU Extension's pesticide education coordinator, said that although many local governments have spraying programs, individuals can take additional steps to protect themselves and their families.

Wilson and SDSU Extension Entomologist Mike Catangui said personal insect repellents containing DEET have been proven safe and effective in tests and are recommended for all but young infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics formerly had said that children should use repellents containing no more than 10 percent DEET, but has revised its recommendation to say that repellents containing 30 percent appear to be safe for children when used according to directions on the label.

DEET is not recommended for use on children under 2 months of age. To reduce the concern of exposure to DEET, parents can wash exposed skin with soap and water when children return indoors.

Parents should also avoid applying DEET to the hands and around the eyes and mouth of children.

Products containing permethrin are also available. Permethrin must be applied only on clothing or related apparels such as hats, shoes, and overalls several hours before being worn. Organic alternatives to DEET or permethrin are also available for chemically-sensitive individuals.

SDSU Extension Fact Sheet 920, "Personal Mosquito Repellents," discusses all these products in greater detail.

Find the publication with other West Nile information online by going to the SDSU Extension home page,, and clicking on the "West Nile Virus" icon.

South Dakota state epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger said most people who become infected with West Nile Virus do not become ill. Some people, however, may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and swollen lymph glands or a rash. In rare cases the virus may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. Although all South Dakotans are at risk of being infected with the West Nile virus, the elderly are at highest risk of severe illness and death. Individuals with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical care as soon as possible.

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