As I mentioned, last week, CDC was worried about the high number of cases of West Nile Virus in July. Texas has had some of the highest number of cases. Dallas County, the most populous area of Texas has had 9 fatalities from West Nile already in 2012. Many of the non-fatal cases of West Nile have been severe. A health emergency has been declared and the Government agencies are going all out to reduce the mosquito vector population. This includes plans for the first aerial spraying of insecticide in 5 decades to kill adult mosquitoes.People in areas with West Nile virus are asked to prevent standing water (where the mosquitoes breed) apply mosquito repellent (DEET is recommended) and stay indoors around dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
Much of the battle against West Nile and other Vector borne diseases is done quietly with little fanfare or public notice. When big problems like this one arise, the public begins to understand the importance of mosquito control districts, government health experts and entomologists ready to act.
Update: A commenter mentions several products that deter mosquitoes in addition to DEET. From the CDC
CDC …. has identified several EPA registered products that provide repellent activity sufficient to help people avoid the bites of disease carrying mosquitoes. Products containing these active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
DEET (Chemical Name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethly-3-methyl-benzamide)
Picaridin (KBR 3023, Chemical Name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester )
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD (Chemical Name: para-Menthane-3,8-diol) the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus
IR3535 (Chemical Name: 3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester)
If people prefer other products to DEET, by all means they should use one of the alternative effective products in West Nile areas. EPA registration does not guarantee efficacy. This is why agencies like CDC make recommendations.
Reminder: “Natural” does not mean a toxin is “safe”. There are plenty of dangerous “natural” chemicals (e.g. Deadly Nightshade). EPA “approval” means that a product is “safe” to use according to directions. Always follow directions when using any repellent product.