Malaria-carrying mosquitoes go for the feet and ankles - so how do you protect yourself?

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  • Scientists have developed hiking socks and ankle bands to repel mosquitos
  • The majority of mosquitos carrying the malaria virus bite people on the feet and ankles
  • The socks remain effective for 8 months or up to 25 cold washes

The festive season coincides with malaria season in South Africa. From October to February parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal become hotspots for the mosquito-borne virus.

According to the national department of health, about 4.9 million people are at risk of contracting the disease in the country. 

'Protect your lower limbs'

To help curb and prevent malaria, scientists at the University of Pretoria developed a long-lasting insect repellent product, called No Buzz, in the form of hiking socks and ankle bands to discourage mosquitos.

Speaking to Health24, one of the developers of the product, Dr Mthokozisi Sibanda, says that according to research by the university, about 93% of mosquitos carrying the malaria virus bite people in the feet and ankle areas, which guided them towards developing the new product.  

“If you protect your lower limbs, you protect yourself from being infected, or at least reduce your chances of becoming infected,” he says.

“They [mosquitos] like flying low and close to the ground. And they no longer venture into houses because they know that the insides of houses are typically treated. So they wait for people outside at sunset and bite them on the ankles and feet. And in the early morning, just before the sun comes up, they're still active in those areas. 

“It’s very important for people to ensure that they are protected from malaria by making sure that they have suitable protection against mosquito bites in the lower limb area. So, this is where our products come in – which have been designed to prevent lower-limb mosquito bites,” Sibanda explains.

How do these products work?

Sibanda says that the socks and bands are made of a fibre infused with the mosquito repellent Citridiol, which is slowly released. The repellent will last for eight months or up to 25 cold washes.

He says the socks and bands are made for outdoor activities such as hiking in areas such as the Kruger National Park, where malaria is prevalent. This means that people will be able to enjoy their holidays with less anxiety about contracting malaria. 

Sibanda adds that the repellant is environmentally friendly and harmless to babies.

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