Abstract The malaria vector Anopheles arabiensis Patton (Diptera: Culicidae) shows a marked predilection (> 80%) for biting the ankles and feet of human subjects, as revealed by our previous observations at Malahlapanga in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Topical application of insect repellent, 15% deet (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide), to feet and ankles reduced the overall biting rate of An. arabiensis by 69%. A focal malaria epidemic in Albertsnek village (25°33′ S, 31°59′ E) near the Mozambique border, following flooding during February 2000, provided an opportunity to apply these findings of operational research for outbreak containment. Twice-nightly topical application of deet to ankles and feet of Albertsnek inhabitants was followed by rapid restoration of pre-epidemic malaria incidence levels after one incubation period. This encouraging outcome should be attempted in other outbreak-prone settings where infective mosquito bites are sporadic and malaria has unstable endemicity.