Doctors: Blood Supply Safe From W. Nile

The local ABC affiliate, KSTP-TV, surveyed a dozen stores throughout the metro area and found that many were sold out of bug sprays, especially those with a high concentration of DEET.

The problem, warn doctors, is too much DEET can be dangerous for children. Pediatricians are encouraging parents to read the label on insect repellents to determine what percentage they contain of DEET, also listed by its longer name — dyeethelmetatoluamide.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that anyone less than 12 years of age use 10 percent, or less than 10 percent, DEET," says Dr. John O'Connell, a pediatrician with the Metropolitan Pediatric Specialists in Burnsville, Minnesota. "It is also a neuro-toxin and it can be dangerous."

O'Connell also advises DEET be applied sparingly to exposed skin and clothing, and that both be washed immediately upon coming indoors. He also recommends that children not be allowed to sleep with the chemical on their skin.

And finally, avoid combination products containing both sunscreen and DEET. The sunscreen helps the chemical absorb into the skin, which can be toxic.

Putting West Nile in Perspective

Experts note the reality is that healthy people aren't likely to get die even if they get West Nile virus. It's far more likely, they say, that you'll die of the flu or be struck by lightning.

By contrast, poor health habits are something Dr. David West, program director of St. Mary's Family Practice Residency in Grand Junction, Colo., sees in a growing number of patients. He believes they deserve more media attention. "I have admitted six people in the last two weeks with alcoholic liver disease in their 40s and 50s. These are the statistically important health issues of our day."

Adds Dr. Bill Steinmann, director of the Center for Clinical Effectiveness at Tulane: "The impact of [West Nile], no matter how epidemic it gets, is going to pale in comparison to the other diseases we face on a daily basis."

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