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Officials need help to reduce mosquito population
First case of chikungunya fever confirmed in Pinellas
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Graphic courtesy FLORIDA DOH
The Florida Department of Health urges residents to drain and cover to help reduce the mosquito population and prevent bites.
State and local officials are asking the public to help control the mosquito population.

“A simple and easy way to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses is to follow the “Drain and Cover” method,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, Deputy Secretary for Health and Deputy State Health Officer for Children’s Medical Services. “Drain water from any containers around your home, cover your skin with clothing and mosquito repellent and cover doors and windows with screen to keep mosquitoes out of your home or business.”

The rainy season is especially challenging for Pinellas County Mosquito Control. Technicians have been aggressively treating known breeding grounds by ground and by air. They have also been busy lately responding to calls for help from county residents.

Mosquitos can breed in as little as a quarter to a half inch of standing water. One of the best ways to slow down the growth of the mosquito population is to drain all standing water. The state DOH offers the following suggestions.

• Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.

• Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.

• Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least once or twice a week.

• Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.

• Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

It is important to protect against being bitten to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. When outside, especially at dusk and dawn, it is important to wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeves. Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repeat applications according to directions. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches and patios to keep mosquitos out of the home.

Mosquito-borne illnesses

The Department of Health in Pinellas County is cautioning residents about a viral mosquito-borne disease called chikungunya fever that has made its way to the Caribbean from Africa, Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. Travelers to those countries can carry the virus back to the United States and infect local mosquito populations.

The state DOH reported six cases of chikungunya fever during the week of June 21 in persons that had international travel. The cases were reported in Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, and Polk Counties. As of July 2, 52 travel-associated cases have been reported, including one from Pinellas County in a resident who traveled to the Caribbean in June.

Symptoms of chikungunya fever include sudden high fever, severe joint pain and swelling, back pain, rash as well as headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting and redness around the eyes. Rarer symptoms involve the brain, eyes, heart, kidney or other organs.

Health officials say fatal infections are rare, but chronic joint pain, arthritis, loss of energy and depression lasting weeks to years has been reported.

Other mosquito-borne illnesses include West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, Dengue Fever, Malaria, Yellow Fever and Rift Valley Fever.

Pinellas County participates in a sentinel program that alerts officials when mosquito-borne illness may be in the area. Technicians monitor the mosquito population through traps located around the county.

Mosquito Control also monitors viruses through “sentinel” chickens caged in eight locations. Routine blood tests on these chickens detect virus antibodies, which serves as an early alert that a virus is present locally. If a virus is detected, the state DOH will issue an advisory.

For more information or to report a mosquito problem, call 464-7503 or visit

Updated to report first confirmed case of chikungunya fever in Pinellas County.

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