Four more people have tested positive for West Nile virus in Duval County, the Health Department has confirmed on Monday.
Health officials said the most recent cases involve 35- and 52-year-old men, and 41- and 54-year-old women. Three were hospitalized and released, while the fourth may be released by Tuesday, officials said. All of the victims live in different parts of the city, but the Health Department says it won't release specific ZIP codes of where the virus is turning up until a pattern emerges.
"We're not seeing it in any one particular ZIP code right now," said Vincy Samuel, of the Health Department. "Right now we're seeing it in various ZIP codes across Duval County, so no matter where you are, the risk is potentially there."
The total number of cases in Duval County this year is now five. A 62-year-old woman was hospitalized from the virus last month and has since been released.
The Health Department has issued a mosquito-borne illness alert for Duval County, and officials said there is a heightened concern that more residents will become ill.
Symptoms of West Nile virus may include headache, fever, fatigue, dizziness, weakness and confusion. Physicians should contact their county health department if they suspect someone may meet the case definition for a mosquito-borne illness.
Florida Department of Health laboratories provide testing services for physicians treating patients with clinical signs of mosquito-borne disease.
Samuel said someone could have West Nile and not even realize it.
"For a lot of people, you will not see severe symptoms," Samuel said. "It may just be a fever or some muscle aches. But for a small percentage, it could be much worse."
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness and is not spread from person to person. There is no specific medication or vaccine for the virus.
There were 19 cases of West Nile virus in Duval County last year. Two patients died. A patient in Glynn County, Ga., also died of the virus.
"It is a possibility we may see more (this year)," Samuel said. "We are hoping that by putting our prevention methods out there, people will be proactive and hopefully prevent more from coming, but we just can't estimate."
To protect yourself from mosquitoes, you should remember "Drain and Cover."
Drain standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.
- Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water 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.
Cover skin with clothing or repellent.
- Clothing -- Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
- Repellent -- Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house. Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches and patios.
Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET are generally recommended. Other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.
Apply insect repellent to exposed skin or onto clothing, but not under clothing.
In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the CDC, mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of 3. DEET is not recommended on children younger than 2 months old.
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 your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer's directions.
The Florida Department of Health said it continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria and dengue. Residents of Florida are encouraged to report dead birds via the website for Surveillance of Wild-bird Die-offs located at www.myfwc.com/bird/.
For more information on mosquito-borne illnesses, visit DOH's Environmental Public Health website at www.doh.state.fl.us/Environment/medicine/arboviral/index.html or call your DCHD at 904-253-1850.