Objective.—Over 2 million adolescents participate in summer-camp experiences, placing themselves at risk for mosquito-borne illness. Insect repellent is recommended but often not used. It is unknown whether permethrin treatment of a location, such as a campsite, provides passive prophylaxis reducing mosquito bites among all persons in the immediate vicinity.
Methods.—This randomized, double-blind controlled trial used 0.4% permethrin (2.5% permethrin diluted by 7 parts water) sprayed once onto the external surface of canvas tents at a Boy Scout summer camp. During a 9-week period, subjects (n = 545) completed nightly mosquito-bite and -landing counts for 5 minutes at dusk and recorded insect-repellent use within 2 hours of counting. Weekly mosquito sampling with CO2-baited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traps occurred at study campsites. The primary outcome measure was the number of mosquito bites per 5 minutes.
Results.—A total of 1614 person nights averaged 5.1 ± 7.2 (±SD) mosquito bites per 5 minutes. The permethrin-treated campsites had decreased mosquito landings and bites (relative risk reduction [RRR] 44%; 95% CI 34% to 55%; P < .001) compared with controls. Insect repellent was used only 32% of nights, decreasing bites by 36% (RRR 36%; 95% CI 25% to 47%; P < .001). Permethrin was superior to insect repellent alone (RRR 20%; 95% CI 4% to 37%; P = .01).
Conclusions.—Permethrin treatment of tents is an effective, inexpensive public health measure to reduce mosquito bites. Permethrin is effective among all individuals in a camping setting and was more effective than topical insect repellent alone, which, although recommended, was inconsistently used.