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Pinellas County Confirms First Human West Nile Virus Case

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After issuing a heath advisory for West Nile Virus earlier this week, the Department of Health in Pinellas County has confirmed its first case of the virus in a human since 2007.

After issuing a heath advisory for West Nile Virus earlier this week, the Department of Health in Pinellas County has confirmed its first case of the virus in a human since 2007.


The  advisory was issued after 19 positive tests for West Nile Virus in sentinel chickens from Pinellas County Mosquito Control coops. That number is up to 23 positive tests for the virus.

So far this year, positive samples from five humans, eight mosquito pools, and 76 sentinel chickens have been received from 14 counties in Florida. Pinellas is the first one to report a postive sample in the Tampa Bay area. 

Maggie Hall, the public information officer for DOH in Pinellas, said Tampa Bay-area residents need to be extra careful about  avoiding mosquito bites, especially with the potential for Tropical Storm Erika to bring more rainfall. 

"We're due for a rainy spell the next coupe days and we already know that West Nile Virus is circulating in the population in mosquitos and birds, and now a human," Hall said. 

Glen-Paul Edson, the operations manager at Pinellas County Mosquito Control, said some private companies are quick to sell anti-mosquito remedies to homeowners, even though the county sprays regularly with fogging trucks and kills larvae in lakes, ponds and standing water.

The county also makes house calls to concerned residents.

"People are kind of getting taken advantage of with private mosquito control companies that go out and put really expensive mister systems in peoples' yards, and unfortunately, that puts out chemicals every day,” Edson said.

These misters release chemicals that not only kill other insects and potentially harm wildlife, but that can also create a new generation of mosquitos resistant to the treatment, Edson said. 

To prevent it, he also said the county rotates the chemicals it uses to kill mosquito larva and adults.

While mosquito activity is especially high because of hot weather and recent flooding, Pinellas County Mosquito Control officials said homeowners are more to blame for mosquito breeding more often than floodwaters.

“People don’t realize that all the little cups and buckets and bird baths and abandoned swimming pools, Jacuzzis and boat covers, anything that can hold water, can breed mosquitoes,” Edson said. “We try to enlighten citizens to walk around house after it rains to overturn containers like the overflown dishes for potted plants, anything that can breed mosquitos.”

Of the 36 species of mosquitoes that live in Pinellas and 80 species that live in Florida, two species are container breeders. They don’t carry West Nile Virus, Edson said, but they do carry Chikungunya and dengue fever.

Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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