Mosquitoes, stay away!
By Mikaela G. Martinez-Bucu, M.D. | Illustrations by Roc Verdera
With a 98 percent rise in reported dengue cases this year versus 2018, the Department of Health (DOH) declared that the Philippines is in a national dengue epidemic alert. There are over 140,000 cases filed, with 622 recorded deaths, since July 20. How do we stop this from increasing at even more alarming rates?
The dengue virus is a mosquito-borne disease, so the best way to prevent dengue is to avoid mosquito bites. The four types of dengue viruses are spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus, which can be identified by the white patches on their black bodies that appear like stripes on their legs. These mosquitoes bite primarily during the day, but can also bite at night.
Here are some tips on how to keep yourself and your loved ones mosquito bite-free.
Use an insect repellent right for you
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using an Environmental Protection Agency or EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picardin or KBR 3023, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), 2-undecanone. These EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective as long as they are used as directed. Read the instructional labels carefully, especially when applying these products on children. Note that insect repellents should not be used for babies younger than two months old. Products containing OLE and PMD should not be applied on children under three years of age. The effectiveness of natural insect repellents is not yet known. It is better to use EPA-registered repellents to make sure that you are protected.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Choose appropriate clothing that covers the arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites, especially for children who cannot use insect repellents. Avoid tight-fitting clothes with thin fabrics as mosquitoes can bite through these types of clothing with ease. Double up on the protection by going out fully covered, especially when going outside to the neighborhood park to hang out.
Mosquito-proof your home
If the houses do not have any screens on windows and doors, a mosquito bed net can keep these pesky bugs out. Mosquito netting can also be used on cribs and strollers to protect your little ones from dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like sinks, closets, and under furniture. Insect spray can effectively eradicate the mosquitoes in your home as long as you follow the labels carefully. Other popular mechanical devices to kill mosquitoes in your home include UV mosquito traps and mosquito racket zappers.
Make sure to cover, empty, or turn over containers that can hold water, which can serve as a place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, such as tires, buckets, flower pots, pools, trash cans, etc. Check the inside and the outside of your home weekly for these potential breeding grounds. Keeping your home clean and clutterfree can also help keep it mosquito-free.
Keep the virus from spreading
If you have been diagnosed with dengue, make sure to prevent mosquito bites as well since the dengue virus is found in the blood of an infected person during the first week of infection. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it also becomes infected and has the potential of spreading the disease to the next person it bites.
If you have been previously diagnosed with dengue and the diagnosis was confirmed by laboratory tests, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the vaccine once it becomes available. Phase three trials of the vaccine, when used properly, showed a reduction in severe dengue cases by 93 percent and reduced hospital admission due to dengue by 82 percent.
The best way to beat dengue is to know how the source works. In this case, the mosquitoes and what environment they thrive in. Prevention is easier when all the variables are identified. Take these out, and there will be no breeding grounds left for them to cultivate in.
About the writer: Mikaela G. Martinez-Bucu, MD, FPOGS, FPSRM is a clinical associate professor at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital and active consultant at Manila Doctors Hospital. She is a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist and fertility specialist. As a new mother to a one-year-old son, she is an advocate for breastfeeding and Early Intrapartum and Newborn Care/ EINC (Unang Yakap)