Health officials warning the public to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses

West Nile virus detected in sentinel chicken flock

The Aedes aegypti mosquito can transmit West Nile virus. Image from Wikipedia

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) advised residents on Nov. 3 that it had detected an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity in areas of Sarasota County.

“Several sentinel chicken flocks have tested positive for West Nile virus infection,” a news release explains. “The risk of transmission to humans has increased,” the release adds, so Sarasota County’s Mosquito Control program and DOH-Sarasota are continuing their surveillance and prevention efforts.

Health Department staff is reminding residents and visitors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to take basic precautions to help limit exposure.

“To protect yourself from mosquitoes, you should remember to ‘Drain and Cover’ with these tips,” the release points out:

  • Drainwater from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
  • Discardold tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that are not being used.
  • Empty and cleanbirdbaths and water bowls for pets at least once or twice a week.
  • Protectboats and vehicles from rain with tarps that do not accumulate water.
  • Maintainswimming pools in good condition and keep them appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
  • Cover yourselves: Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves if you must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.

Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and IR3535 are effective, the release points out. The listed alternatives to DEET have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the release notes. “These products are generally available at local pharmacies,” the release adds. “Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.”

  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than two months of age.
  • Always read label repellent directions carefully for the approved usage before applying any to clothes or skin. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
The county has sentinel roosters and hens. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Products with concentrations of up to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are generally recommended, the release says.

  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin or on top of clothing, but not under clothing, the release stresses.
  • In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon or eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of 3, the release says. “DEET is not recommended on children younger than two months,” it points out
  • Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.
  • If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to clothing. “Again, always follow the manufacturer’s directions,” the release says.
  • Coverdoors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of houses.
  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches and patios.

For more information about repellents, consider using the Environmental Protection Agency’s search tool: http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/#searchform.

For more information, visit DOH’s website at http://www.floridahealth.gov/%5C/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/index.html.

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