This year's mosquito predictions

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mosquitoes big, buzz, bite, breed and just plain bother most of us. But the pesky insects can also spread disease and last year, they left behind 18 reported cases of West Nile Virus in Duval County.

Division Chief John Shellhorn of Jacksonville Mosquito Control said his team has already started fogging against the insects.

"It's much easier to destroy mosquitoes before they take to the wing and begin flying off," Shellhorn said.

As the weather warms up after a rather mild winter, many wonder if this season will be as bad as last summer, when two people died from West Nile.

He said it's tough to predict, but the area hasn't seen any signs of a rough season yet—which is good news. He said the small amount of rain Jacksonville recently saw hasn't been enough to activate the mosquitoes.

"One is warm weather, lack of wind, the other is standing water," Shellhorn said. "That's the key ingredient that's been missing here, and that's really helped us, in terms of not seeing a preponderance of mosquitoes out in the neighborhood."

Even still, he said it's a full-time effort for mosquito control.

"We've got staff out every day, monitoring ditch basins, storm drains, ditch lines, swamps," he said. "The water levels, even after a rainfall event, the water is just absorbed into the ground. That's good in terms of the mosquitoes."

Shellhorn said education is vital to helping prevent mosquito bites and the spread of diseases like West Nile or Encephalitis. He says to remember the 5 D's: Dusk, Dawn, Dress, DEET and Drainage.

DUSK and DAWN: The two times of day when mosquitoes are usually more active.

DRESS: A reminder that long sleeves, pants and closed-toed shoes protect you.

DEET: The best kind of insect repellant available.

DRAINAGE: Get rid of any standing water near your home or business.

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