The World Health Organization has declared the rapid spread of the Zika virus an international public health emergency. There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus and no drug to treat Zika infections, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is essential that people avoid mosquito bites.
Consumer Reports tests insect repellents for their effectiveness against the Aedes mosquito. That’s the kind of mosquito known to transmit Zika. Products containing the right percentages of deet or picaridan were most effective at preventing bites from aggressive mosquitoes.
The best: Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which contain 20 percent picaridin; and Off Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet, the amount of deet Consumer Reports considers safe and effective. Even women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely use those insect repellents if they’re applied properly. Here’s what to do:
• Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing — never under clothing.
• Don’t apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
• When using repellents on your face, spray first on your hands. Then rub it in carefully, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
• Don’t let young children apply insect repellent themselves. Instead, put it on your own hands, then rub it on them. And it should never be used on infants under 2 months old.
In addition to using the right insect repellent, Consumer Reports also recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
While no cases of Zika have been traced to mosquito bites received in the U.S., experts predict some spread of the disease as weather warms up, particularly in Florida, Texas, and other southern states where the Aedes mosquitoes is most prevalent.