Best insect repellents to avoid the Zika virus

Posted at 6:59 AM, Feb 11, 2016

The Zika virus continues to spread quickly across the world. In response to the growing threat, the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency.

Zika is linked to birth defects. Pregnant women who have become infected with the Zika virus have given birth to babies with abnormally small heads and permanent brain damage.

There is no vaccine for the Zika virus and no drug to treat Zika infections. Health officials say the best way to prevent becoming infected is to avoid being bit by mosquitos that carry the virus.

Consumer Reports tested a number of insect repellents for their effectiveness against the Aedes mosquito, the type of mosquito known to transmit Zika.

"Products containing the right percentages of deet or picaridan were most effective at preventing bites from aggressive mosquitos in our tests," said Sue Burns, Health Editor at Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports recommends three insect repellents, Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin, Natrapel 8 Hour and Off Deepwoods VIII.

Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour each contain 20 percent picaridin.

Off Deepwoods VIII contains 25 percent deet, the amount of deet Consumer Reports considers safe and effective.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely use the three insect repellents if they are applied properly following the directions on their labels.

Consumer Reports says you should only apply repellents to exposed skin or clothing, never under clothing. Do not apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.

Also do not apply repellent directly to your face. Instead spray it on your hands first, and then carefully rub it on your head making sure to avoid getting it in your eyes and mouth.

Parents should not let young children apply insect repellent themselves. Instead, put it on your hands and then rub it on them. Repellents should never be used on infants under two months of age.

In addition to using insect repellents, Consumer Reports also recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

As of mid-February there have been no mosquito-transmitted cases of Zika reported in the U.S., but health expects predict that will change as the weather warms up. Officials fears the virus will spread quickly in southern states where the Aedes mosquitoes is most prevalent.