Two additional people in Jacksonville were diagnosed with West Nile virus last week, bringing the number of confirmed cases in Duval County to 22 -- more than were reported all of last year.
The most recent cases involve a 31-year-old man and an 83-year-old woman.
Last year, there were 20 cases of West Nile confirmed in Jacksonville, and two patients died with the disease. A patient in Glynn County, Ga., also died of the virus in 2011.
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.
About one in 150 people infected with West Nile will develop severe illness. Symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
At Any LabTest Now Jacksonville, all it takes is a simple blood test to find out if the symptoms are, say, the flu or West Nile virus. Patients can walk right in without an appointment or doctor referral.
Drawing the blood sample takes about 15 minutes and the test costs $112. The lab caters to people who are uninsured, so those who have insurance pay out of pocket.
So far, the lab has done about six tests for West Nile, none of which have come back positive. It only takes a few days to get results back.
"Probably the results are a little bit faster here because we're more in tune with our patients. We're all about lab testing," lab owner Mike Griffiths said. "Doctors have so many other concerns, it does take them a little bit longer sometimes."
The Duval County Health Department says 80 percent of people who have West Nile virus don't know it, but only 1 percent of people have severe effects. Officials say testing may be beneficial if a doctor deems it necessary.
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.
The city's Mosquito Control Division is urging everyone to help prevent breeding by draining standing water.
Florida Department of Health laboratories provide testing services for physicians treating patients with clinical signs of mosquito-borne disease.
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.