Mosquito alert comes early this year despite cold winter
Aprinl 23, 2010
Florida's summer-like temperatures are bringing out mosquitoes and warnings about potential disease.
Recent tests on sentinel chickens show an increase in mosquito-borne disease in Hillsborough County and across Florida, prompting the health department to issue a public alert months earlier than usual.
Three tests in Southern Hillsborough County were positive, and 25 cases were identified statewide as West Nile virus, an infection often causing fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash and swollen lymph glands.
In serious cases it can cause brain and spinal cord inflammation, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The health department regularly monitors for West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses, including Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria, and dengue.
Despite the cold winter, today's alert could be one of the earliest issued for mosquito-borne illness, health department spokesman Steve Huard said today.
Last year at this time, there had been few or no positive tests for mosquito-borne illness, health department data shows. In 2008, a public alert was issued in July when Eastern equine encephalitis was detected in 30 counties.
"Any positive tests this time of year are going to raise eyebrows because this is not traditionally when they appear," Huard said.
The public alerts aim to reduce the chance of humans contracting mosquito-borne illness by urging residents to take precautions, Huard said. And as of today, no cases have been detected locally.
When outside, wear clothes that cover the skin, and apply insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535. Huard said some of these repellants are strong and may not be appropriate for children and some adults.
It's also important to avoid areas of standing water, where mosquitoes breed and lay eggs. Hot spots could include gutters, old tires, tarps, birdbaths, feeding dishes and plastic pots and planters left outside.
For more information about West Nile virus, call (888) 880-5782 or your county health department.
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