Duval Health Department warns of growing West Nile virus risk

By Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Duval County Health Department issued an advisory Wednesday warning residents about the growing risk of mosquito-borne diseases in parts of Jacksonville.

The advisory comes after several sentinel chicken flocks tested positive recently for West Nile Virus, a potentially deadly infection that can be transmitted to humans, according to the health department.

As a result, authorities are reminding residents and visitors to take steps to avoid mosquito bites and limit their exposure to West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

Below is a list of some of the things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Drain standing water from garbage cans and any other items around the house that can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
  • Check to see if the screens on your doors and windows are in good shape. If they're not, repair any broken screens as needed to keep the pests out of your house.
  • Keep your swimming pool clean and make sure it has the right level of chlorine. If you've got a plastic swimming pool, empty it when it's not in use.
  • Cover up your exposed skin with long pants and long sleeves. This is important, particularly for people who work outdoors or where mosquitoes are found.
  • Be sure to apply mosquito repellent to bare skin. Products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and IR3535 are effective.

By and large, most people infected with West Nile do not experience any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But about one in five may develop a fever resulting in symptoms ranging from headaches to vomiting and diarrhea.

In rare cases, the CDC states, those infected with West Nile may come down with a serious illness affecting the central nervous system, such as encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms include high fever, vision loss, paralysis, tremors and coma.

Currently, there is no vaccine available to treat West Nile virus. But, according to the CDC, over-the-counter pain medication can help treat fever and other minor symptoms. Those with severe illnesses are encouraged to seek medical attention.

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