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How To Stay Safe From Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

May 24, 2018

With standing storm water in several counties and the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses rising, Floridians have to worry about more than just putting on bug spray.

“Mosquitoes land in the water and actually lay their eggs there,” said Courtney Herman, Senior Biological Scientist and Insectary Manager for the University of South Florida Center for Global Health & Infectious Disease Research (GHIDR). “With a lot more rain comes more water and then we see an outbreak of mosquitoes.”

The Florida Department of Health has several tips on how to take the necessary precautions. The first thing residents and visitors can do is ‘Drain and Cover.’

“If people have planters, or birdbaths or buckets that could collect and hold water, they would want to make sure that they dump that out on a regular basis,” Herman said.

Garbage cans, gutters, coolers and pool covers are other items that often collect rain water. Water bowls for pets should be frequently cleaned and emptied, too.

Officials said people should stay inside when mosquitoes are most active. But, if people plan on going outside, covering skin with clothing or repellent is a good idea.

Wearing socks, long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes are important for those who work in areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes.

“At dusk and night is when the mosquitoes normally come out,” said Herman. “Wearing the proper attire in the evenings if you can, like covering as much of your legs and arms as possible, that will prevent as many mosquito bites as you can.”

Using the proper insect repellant is also an important deterrent.

“Some of the better insect repellants have DEET (diethyltoluamide) in them,” Herman said. “But if you’re looking for a more natural approach, you can also use lemon eucalyptus oil.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has a search tool that helps people choose the right repellant.

Herman has additional suggestions for people who prefer to remain indoors during rainy weather.

“Use air conditioning as much as possible, and if you do have screens on your doors and windows, make sure that there aren’t any holes in them and if there are, repair them.”

While there are many days with nonstop rain, Herman said that the period won’t be long enough for mosquitoes to reproduce.

“From egg to adult, it’s probably going to take anywhere from two and half to three weeks to develop,” said Herman. “If the rain water goes away, the mosquito larvae aren’t going to survive and they won’t reach the adult stage.”

If someone gets bitten by a mosquito, it is important to monitor the bite to avoid a mosquito-borne illness.

“Within seven to 10 days after the mosquito bite, you would start to notice some symptoms like headache, fatigue, nausea - those are signs to look out for,” Herman said. “You should probably seek medical attention just to make sure that you don’t have any disease that mosquitoes can carry.”

Another source for tips about mosquitoes can be found in the Prevention Index by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.