Permethrin-treated uniforms protect against lethal diseases

By Capt. Brian Knott, Entomologist, U.S. Army Public Health CommandJuly 7, 2014

Permethrin-treated uniforms protect against lethal diseases
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 1, 2014) -- In an age when diseases transmitted to people by insects or animals (called "vector-borne diseases") are emerging worldwide, personal protective measures are essential. The development of permethrin-impregnated clothing has been one recent advance in protecting persons at risk.

Soldiers live, train and operate in non-combat areas every day around the world. There is increased risk of getting bitten by insects that transmit potentially lethal diseases. Only a few are preventable by vaccines. Although there are certain drugs available for the prevention of malaria, drug resistance is currently on the increase and spreading throughout many parts of the world.

For this reason, personal protective measures against biting arthropods and arthropod-borne diseases constitute the first line of defense. A major advance in the protection of high-risk personnel (for example, outdoor workers, travelers and Soldiers) has been the development of topical repellents in combination with residual insecticides that can be impregnated into clothing, tents and netting.

The Army combat uniform, known as the ACU, treated with permethrin protects Soldiers from insect and tick-borne diseases while in garrison, training and non-combat deployed environments. Here are some facts about insect and tick-borne disease.

Cases of tick-borne diseases are on the rise in North America.

• Lyme disease: 35,000 cases in 2010, up from 12,000 cases in 1995

• Rocky Mountain spotted fever: 2,500 cases a year

• Erlichiosis and anaplasmosis: 1,000 cases each per year

Mosquito-Borne Diseases

• Since 1999, more than 30,000 people in the U.S. have reported illness from the West Nile virus. It has killed more than 1,200.

• Other types of mosquito-borne encephalitis occur in North America.

• Dengue "broken bone" fever is making a comeback after a 45-year absence.

• Chikungunya is a new emerging disease in the Western hemisphere.

The key to preventing diseases transmitted by insects and other arthropods, such as malaria and West Nile virus by mosquitoes and Lyme disease by ticks, is the simultaneous use of all elements of the Department of Defense insect repellent system. Wearing permethrin-treated uniforms is a key component of this system. A single factory treatment with permethrin offers significant benefits to the ACU-permethrin wearer.

The ACU-permethrin eliminates the need for Soldiers to ever think about treating their uniforms. The factory treatment uses special binders to ensure that enough permethrin is retained in the uniform's fabric to protect against mosquito, tick, fly, chigger and midge bites for the lifetime of the uniform. Factory treatment guarantees that a safe and effective amount of permethrin is precisely applied to each ACU-permethrin. The guesswork as to who has and who does not have a permethrin-treated uniform is removed.

Factory treatment mitigates the potential risk of increased exposure by eliminating the need for Soldiers to apply concentrated liquid permethrin products. Factory treatment also eliminates environmental concerns associated with the use and disposal of field-applied permethrin products.

Soldiers who've deployed before may have treated their own uniforms using the "Shake 'n Bake" kits. Most people agree that getting a pre-treated uniform is much better. Factory-treated uniforms are the best passive protection available. Passive protection means Soldiers don't have to do a thing; just put on the uniform and the bugs will not bite. Soldiers should use all of the components of the DOD insect repellent system -- treated uniforms, pants legs tucked into boots, and the application of DEET lotion on exposed skin.

For more information on preventing insect-borne disease, contact the DOD Pesticide Hotline: 410-436-3773, or visit these Web sources:

U.S. Army Public Health Command,

DOD insect repellent system fact sheet,

Related Links:

U.S. Army Public Health Command: Permethrin Factory-Treated Army Combat Uniforms

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