Health officials on alert for West Nile virus amid Labor Day activities

Florida Department of Health: Heightened concern more could become ill

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health has issued a mosquito-borne illness alert for Duval County after confirmed cases of West Nile Virus were reported.

Health officials are concerned more people might become ill, especially with people out and about for a Labor Day weekend that is expected to include some rain.

Mosquito control wants people to remember to "Drain and Cover."

“Things as small as a bottle cap can breed hundreds, if not thousands, of mosquitoes, so it’s important that you’re doing regular checks around your neighborhood and your yard and keeping that standing water drained,” said Erin Hess, interim administrator at the DOH in Duval County.

You'll also want to cover your skin with clothing or repellent.

“If you think, ‘Oh maybe I’ve been bitten by a mosquito,’ that’s going to be your first indication is check for bites,” Hess said. “Do you see any presence of mosquito bites? And then you want to follow up with your doctor.”

While most people infected with the virus do not experience any symptoms, in rare cases, those infected may come down with a serious illness affecting the central nervous symptom. Symptoms include high fever, vision loss, paralysis, tremors and coma. Currently, there is no vaccine.

Drain standing water to stop mosquitos from multiplying.

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where water from sprinklers 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 chlorinate. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Cover skin with clothing or repellent.

  • Clothing: Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitos 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, para-menthane-diol and IR3535 are effective.
  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
  • Cover doors and windows with screens and repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches and patios.

Officials added tips on using repellent.

  • Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of 3 years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than two months old.
  • 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, para-menthane-diol 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.
  • 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.

Click here for more information about the West Nile virus.

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