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U.S. Adds New Mosquito Repellents

Guidelines to now include two additional ingredients

THURSDAY, April 28, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. government has introduced the element of choice into mosquito repellents.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added two new active ingredients to its list of recommended repellents.

Picaridin, found in Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent with Picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus, found in various products, now vie with DEET, which had been the only endorsed ingredient found in products in the United States.

"Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus have been shown to offer long-lasting protection," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, at a news conference. "Repellents containing DEET continue to be highly effective repellant options and are also included in CDC guidelines."

The announcement coincides with the beginning of mosquito season in most parts of the country, which in turn brings with it the risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

"Last year, West Nile virus was present in 47 of the 48 continental states and, from what we've observed, once West Nile has entered a state, it stays there," Petersen said. "This is something that we're going to have to learn to live with."

While acknowledging the difficulty of predicting how much West Nile activity will occur in the coming season, Petersen said it "would not surprise" him to see virus activity in Washington State this year, which has been the only state in the continental U.S. to have eluded West Nile.

Experts are hoping the new guidelines will entice more people to use mosquito repellent.

"Nationwide, only about 40 percent of people report they use mosquito repellent with any regulatory," Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, a behavioral scientist with the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, said at the news conference. "We're definitely hoping to convert those non-users into people who do use repellent."

Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, is already found in many mosquito repellent products in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia. Studies have shown that it is as effective as DEET (diethyl toluamide) products of similar concentration. The Advanced Cutter product is being distributed in the United States for the first time this year.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus, also known as p-menthane 3,8-diol or PMD, is a plant-based repellent that is similar in effectiveness to low concentration DEET products. It is available in the United States but is not approved for children under the age of 3.

All three active ingredients -- DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus -- are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The CDC recommends using mosquito repellent any time you go outdoors.

"The key is to use a repellent in the first place, to apply it according to label instructions, and to reapply it when you start getting bitten, no matter which repellant you are using," Zielinski-Gutierrez said.

The newly endorsed ingredients may be more suitable if a person is only spending a short amount of time outdoors, she added.

"People are going to have to take into consideration how long they're going to be outdoors, or choose DEET if they're going to be outside for a longer time," Zielinski-Gutierrez said.

Otherwise, cosmetic differences, such as how a particular product smells or feels, will probably distinguish the different formulations, Zielinski-Gutierrez said.

"It's hard to think that something as small as a mosquito can alter your life, but West Nile is a horrible disease and it's worth taking a few seconds to avoid becoming infected," she added. "People can make it easier on themselves. Have repellent near the back door, at the picnic table."

More information

Visit the CDC for more on West Nile.

SOURCES: April 28, 2005, news conference with Lyle Petersen, M.D., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, and Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, DrPH, behavioral scientist, CDC Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases
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