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The most effective mosquito repellent currently known is DEET. It works by interfering with the mosquito's chemical receptors. Generally a potency of between 10% and 35% is adequate. For detailed information on how DEET works, how to apply it, and how other repellents compare refer to the excellent article from the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled Mosquitoes and Mosquito Repellents: A Clinician's Guide in the link section below.
West Nile Virus
Beginning by about 2002 or 2003 the mosquito born West Nile Virus has become a serious problem for both people and animals. The health threat is serious enough that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have devoted some web pages to this problem. This information can be found at CDC - West Nile Virus.
Basically this is a virus that can be transmitted to humans by mosquito bite for which there is no vaccine or easy cure. People in generally good health may recover from the virus on their own, but people over 50 or in any kind of weakened state should take extra precautions to avoid getting bit.
For hikers this means avoiding areas known to have a high incidence of the disease if possible, to wear mosquito proof clothing (long pants and long-sleeved shirts) when mosquitoes are out, and to use mosquito repellent on exposed skin when they are present.
Links to further information on the Internet:
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