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While Punxsatawny Phil recently predicted six more weeks of winter, mosquito season is approaching rapidly. Mosquitoes have become more than just a nuisance in Massachusetts, as at least 12 people contracted the dangerous eastern equine encephalitis virus from mosquito bites in the state during 2019, three of whom died as a result of the illness. Public health officials in Massachusetts will be taking area-wide mosquito control measures in the state in an effort to protect residents from bites this year. However, it is also important for residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites by applying DEET-containing repellent and regularly removing standing water from lawns. Disease-carrying mosquito species rely on standing water sources in urban and suburban areas in order to reproduce, and a mere bottle cap containing rainwater is sufficient to nurture a large number of eggs.

Surprisingly, mosquitoes prefer the blood of certain types of people over others. Generally, mosquitoes prefer men over women, blacks over whites and young adults over older adults and children. Mosquitoes are also more attracted to bright colors than dark colors, which makes people wearing dark colored clothes more apt to sustain bites than those wearing dark colored clothes. Mosquitoes emerge in large numbers in Massachusetts during the late spring, and they are most active on relatively cool days and in shady areas. Mosquitoes are attracted to prey by means of sight, body temperature and especially smell. For example, the carbon dioxide that is released from the breath and emanates from skin attracts bloodsucking mosquitoes from 36 meters. The itchy red welts that result from mosquito bites is caused by an irritating anticoagulant compound contained within the insect’s saliva. Diethyltoluamide, or DEET, is the most effective anti-mosquito compound, and most repellents sold today contain DEET. However, repellents containing more than 30 percent DEET should never be applied to children. Also, DEET repellent, no matter the concentration, should never be applied to infants below two months of age.

Do you find DEET repellent effective at preventing mosquito bites?