Are you one of those people who saunter off on holiday with only sunscreen to protect you, claiming that “mosquitoes never bite me”? Or perhaps you stock up on Marmite and garlic tablets to keep the biters at bay.
Think again! Scientists from arctec, the School’s repellent testing facility, have launched Bug Off, a campaign to highlight the importance of using repellents when travelling to tropical countries where insects spread disease.
Joined by a giant mosquito, the arctec team took to the streets of London on the morning of 3 June, chatting to passers-by to dispel the many myths surrounding insect repellents. Their bite-sized facts sheets informed people that, contrary to popular belief, eating Marmite or garlic or taking vitamins will not stop them from getting bitten. Insect repellents containing 20-50% of the active ingredient DEET should always be used in tropical areas, and reapplied regularly as they wear off.
In the afternoon, they launched the Bug Off poster competition and resources pack at Gillespie Primary School’s Science Week and delivered interactive lessons about protecting against biting insects and infectious diseases. The children were inspired and asked very insightful questions such as “can you catch one mosquito-borne disease when you already have another?” and “if you eat lots of sugar, does it affect the way you smell to mosquitoes and how much you are bitten?”. One of the children had even baked a malaria-themed cake to mark the visit. Yummy!
Carole Kenrick, Scientist/Inventor in Residence at the School said: “We received loads of positive comments about the lesson from the children, and they were fascinated to find out that mosquitoes like some people more than others. It really stuck with them!”
Rien, Sarah, Christina and Vicki, researchers at the Department of Disease Control at the School, said “It was fantastic to share our passion for research with the children and spark their interest in science. This particular visit was about giving the children important, accurate advice to help them guard against dangerous diseases and dispel some of the myths about bite protection. These events are also rewarding for researchers on a personal level, helping us to develop vital science communication skills. Working with such a great group of children is really fun, and motivates us to continue taking part in these activities.”
Support the Bug Off campaign, and encourage any 8-14 year olds you know to enter the poster competition. Great prizes to be won for entries received before 31 July 2014.
(Images: School researchers at Gillespie Primary School. Credit: Rien de Keyser. School researchers talking to the public about insect repellents. Credit: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Malaria-themed cake baked by a pupil. Credit: Rien de Keyser.)