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During the panic surrounding West Nile Virus which peaked in the early 2000s, many people turned towards home remedies in order to repel mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting West Nile Virus and many believed that the key to warding off the fearful sickness lay within keeping mosquitoes and their bites away. One such home remedy that arose was the belief that bananas kept mosquitoes at bay.
Scientists theorize that the West Nile Virus may have caused Alexander the Great's death, based on reports of avian deaths months before his illness and eventual death. Research posits that the West Nile virus first came into existence around a thousand years ago in Africa. From there, it split into two distinct lineages: Lineage 1, which spread throughout the continent and became a worldwide epidemic, and Lineage 2, which remained in Africa. The first appearance of the West Nile virus in the U.S. was in 1999, when encephalitis appeared in humans, dogs, cats, and horses. In 2001, the media began to focus on the disease and report its spread across the world, which raised funding for research of the virus. Despite the panic that stretched across the world at that time, the West Nile virus' effects were not that severe. - less than four percent of the 3,630 cases reported were fatal.
During the panic borne of the threat of the West Nile virus, many people turned to home remedies or concoctions to help stave off the mosquitoes. These remedies included (but are not limited to): dryer sheets, VapoRub, marigolds, bath oils, vanilla extract, and of course, bananas. Although lots of anecdotal evidence has confirmed the вЂњsuccessвЂќ of these remedies, unfortunately most of these attempts were ineffective and only served to soothe the public's nerves rather then the actual mosquito bites.
As for the origins of the specific вЂњbananas as repellentвЂќ myth, it seems that this bit of speculation was largely spread through mass forwarded email messages. Interestingly, many such emails actually indicated that eating bananas attracted mosquitoes, rather than repelling them. One prevalent email message hypothesized, rather vaguely, that there was "something about the banana oil as your body processes it," as chronicled by the eminent debunking website Snopes.com. The myth conjectured that cutting bananas from your diet would effectively cut mosquitoes from your life. Conclusive evidence supporting this, however, has yet to appear.
Beliefs about banana oil, alcohol, and other household substances and their affects on mosquitoes are largely dubious, or at best, unproven. In reality, studies show that mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, octenol, and lactic acid (none of which can be prevented), and even more unavoidable things like movement, color, sounds, moisture, and body heat.
As easy a solution as they may seem to be, do not be taken in by these home remedies. They have been tested and have proven to be ineffective. The only effective preventative measures one can take against mosquitoes are the sprays (specifically, ones including a chemical called DEET) that are manufactured solely for this purpose.
The most effective mosquito repellent is called DEET, and was developed for the U.S. Army in 1946. Many other products have been developed since DEET's release to the public in 1957, but none have been proven to be as effective. A repellent called OFF! Deep Woods (which contains a considerable amount of DEET) has been shown to be very effective as well.