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Rise in Mosquito Population Raises Concern for Transmitted Virus

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When Aisling Cooney went to dinner with her friends over the weekend, she wasn’t prepared for the unexpected guests.

The University of Florida student was enjoying a meal outdoors at Steamer’s around 7:30 p.m. when she noticed all of the mosquitoes.

“My friends and I had to swat them off of each other,” Cooney said.

Although Cooney left with only a few bites, she said she saw far more mosquitoes than she typically sees on a night outdoors.

Cooney is not the only one in Alachua County seeing this increase in mosquitoes. Surveillance systems used by the county have detected an increase in mosquitoes

A wet summer has contributed to an increase in mosquitoes and the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis.  Alachua County Health officials are urging people to take precautions before going outdoors, such as wearing long sleeves and applying insect repellent.
A wet summer has contributed to an increase in mosquitoes and the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Alachua County Health officials are urging people to take precautions before going outdoors, such as wearing long sleeves and applying insect repellent. Photo by Creative Commons

over the past few weeks, said Anthony Dennis, the environmental health director with the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County.

Dennis said these surveillance systems, consisting of citizen complaints, mosquito trap data and chickens placed throughout the county, also confirmed the presence of a mosquito-borne illness.

Dennis said Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) was detected last Friday. This mosquito-borne illness was found in one of the chickens the department has placed throughout the county in late July.

According to the Center for Disease Control, EEEV is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people have no apparent illness; however, severe cases begin with sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. It may progress to disorientation, seizures or coma.

Most cases of EEEV occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, the CDC reports, and it is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States.

Although there has yet to be a confirmed human case this year, Dennis said he urges Alachua County residents to take precautions.

The best thing to do to avoid getting any type of mosquito-borne illness is to avoid being bitten, Dennis said.

The wet summer, Dennis said, has led to the increase in mosquitoes.

“When the rain backs off, you can almost count on it, about two weeks later you experience huge mosquito blooms,” Dennis said.

Dennis also said he recommends residents practice the “drain and cover” method to prevent mosquito breeding and biting.

The “drain” part of the method encourages people to drain water from trashcans, gutters, flowerpots — anything that could hold standing water.

Just the smallest amount of water can breed a lot of mosquitoes, Dennis said.

The “cover” involves wearing long-sleeved clothing and insect repellent (specifically containing DEET) while outdoors, as well as covering doors and windows with proper screens.

“We urge everyone to be aware and to take precautions to avoid being bit by mosquitoes,” Dennis said.

For more information from the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County regarding mosquito-prevention, click here.

 

About Olivia Vega

Olivia is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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