Sunday, September 26, 2010

The best defense is a good offense

Mosquitoes in Ghana are not quite of the "carry-a-small-child-away" variety, like in Alaska.  They're more of the "small-but-deadly" sort, since they carry all sorts of fun diseases, the most prevalent being malaria.  While it is quite possible for one to contract malaria and survive, those who have experienced malaria indicate that it is not all that pleasant, what with all the fever and chills and feeling like death might be preferable.

In the interest of warding off malaria, I'll be on Malarone, a GSK anti-malarial drug, the entire time I'm in Ghana.  Another key weapon in my defensive strategy is copious amounts of DEET or picardin on any exposed skin.  The Duke Travel Clinic said that the extended release versions of  DEET called Ultrathon and Sawyer CR are the best for prolonged protection from skeeters.

The trifecta of defense is a compound called permethrin, which is in the class of synthetic compounds called pyrethroids, known for its ability to repel and kill all sorts of insects, including ticks and mosquitoes.  Many outdoor clothing manufacturers infuse their products with long-lasting permethrin under trade names like Buzz Off.  All of these products are treated using the patented process owned by Insect Shield, which is both the company name and the marketing name for the technology.  The process adheres permethrin molecules to fabric in a way that holds up for 70 washings, which they consider the lifetime of a garment.  Insecticide-treated nets, like those donated to Africa and other malarial areas by Nothing but Nets, are treated with permethrin.

The companies that license this technology often have a significant upcharge on their clothing.  For example, a long-sleeve Ex Officio shirt that costs $50 is $85 when treated with the Insect Shield process.  But Insect Shield sells clothing directly on their website without all the branding upcharges, and even has an offer where they will treat any of your clothes for less than $10/item.  I sent in a stack of clothing for treatment in the hopes that I won't have to completely slather myself in DEET the entire time I'm in Ghana.  I wore Insect-Shield treated clothing yesterday during my going-away party outside at my house and it seemed to make a difference, as I wasn't nearly as bothered by all the mosquitoes as many of my friends.

8 days and counting until I leave, and the list of things to do before I go doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.

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