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Insect Repellent is the New Sunscreen: Preventing Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Preventing Bites as Important as Avoiding Sunburn as Tropical Diseases Cross Borders

By AOA Media Team


​Preventing Bites as Important as Avoiding Sunburn as Tropical Diseases Cross Borders

CHICAGO—March 22, 2016— Osteopathic physicians (DOs) recommend patients incorporate mosquito repellent into their daily warm weather routines to prevent the infection and spread of nearly a dozen illnesses, according to the American Osteopathic Association.

Global travel means diseases carried by mosquitos in other parts of the world can rapidly become a concern in the United States. Domestic mosquitos can spread diseases to home regions when they bite an infected individual who has recently returned from an endemic area, said Ann T. MacIntyre, DO, MHS, a Miami-based osteopathic physician specializing in infectious diseases. 

“Now is the time to change the dialogue about insect repellent. As an osteopathic physician, I focus on preventing disease and injury whenever possible. I recommend using insect repellant wherever there are active mosquitos to protect against mosquito-borne illnesses, which can have devastating consequences for some patients,” said Dr. MacIntyre.

Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent diseases including Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, chikungunya and malaria, all of which have been reported in the United States.  While the current focus is on the Zika virus because of its association to severe birth defects and Guillain-Barre syndrome, it’s important to understand that mosquito bites aren’t an unavoidable summer nuisance, they’re a public health hazard, she added.

The Center for Disease Control recommends:

  • Using an Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535, which are safe for children and pregnant women, according to the CDC.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when the weather permits.

  • Keep mosquitos outside by using air conditioning and/or window and door screens.

Geography is increasingly less relevant in terms of managing your risk for mosquito-borne diseases, according to Mia Taormina, DO, FACOI, an infectious disease and travel medicine specialist at DuPage Medical Group in Chicago’s western suburbs. She urges patients to incorporate mosquito repellent into their daily warm weather routine. There are about 200 different species of mosquitos in the United States, all of which have specific habitats and bite behaviors, she added.

Knowing the peak bite times of the local mosquito population can help people stay safe and enjoy warm-weather activities.

“For instance, Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Central and South America are daytime biters, so you can hike and bike in low-brush areas at dusk or dawn to limit your risk,” said Dr. Taormina. “Feeding patterns are opposite in much of the Midwest, where the evening hours pose the highest risk.  To help prevent disease caused by bites, I partner with my patients to develop outdoor activity strategy specific to their destination.”

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 123,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at



Media Contact:

Jessica Bardoulas
(312) 202-8038

Twitter: @AOAforDOs