With restoration continuing this week after Hurricane Irma, Florida Department of Health officials are warning residents about standing water left by the storm as a thriving environment for mosquitoes.
Containers like garden pots, birdbaths, tires and cans, when filled with standing water, can host mosquitoes laying up to 200 eggs.
“Standing water is standing water,” said Howard Chon, Orkin Regional Sales Manager. “They can live off the water of a leaf.”
Large receptacles like pools that received heavy amounts of rainfall should be monitored and properly chlorinated, and plastic above-ground swimming pools should be emptied when not in use.
"If you have in your backyard, a lake, that's probably not as dangerous as the little water you may have in your flowerpot. So really the small, little bodies of water, please get rid of them," said Dr. Beata Casanas, Associate Professor in the Division of Infectious Disease at University of South Florida Health. “Our message is to go outside your house, look for those small areas that you can empty.”
The growing populations of bugs can lead to a rise of mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, malaria, Chikungunya virus, Dengue, and West Nile.
Even with necessary precautions, mosquitoes will be prevalent in the coming months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the mosquitoes that hatch immediately after hurricanes like Irma are “nuisance mosquitoes.” The types of bugs that spread viruses don't normally pop up until two weeks to two months after a major storm.
Experts suggest wearing long sleeves and pants, as well as staying inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
Repellents can also help in fighting off mosquitoes, but knowing what to look for can make them more effective.
When considering the ingredients in repellents, look for DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535. It is recommended to not use repellents with oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under the age of three, and to not use repellents with DEET on children younger than two months.
“Prevention is our only defense at this time,” said Dr. Casanas.