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Hurricanes mean more rain, and more mosquitos. Here's how to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses

Un mosquito Aedes aegypti, causante del virus del zika, sobre la piel de un ser humano. Foto tomada en el 2006, suministrada por los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades de Estados Unidos. (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)
James Gathany/AP
/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Un mosquito Aedes aegypti, causante del virus del zika, sobre la piel de un ser humano. Foto tomada en el 2006, suministrada por los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades de Estados Unidos. (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

Standing water from such places as garbage cans, buckets, and pool covers is the main culprit.

Hurricane season has just begun, which means southwest Florida residents should begin taking precautionary measures to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County emphasizes that mosquito-borne illnesses can be prevented by draining standing water and covering up.

“Words to live by are drain and cover,” Kristine Hollingsworth, a public information officer for Florida Department of Health in Collier County, said. “When we say drain, drain standing water. Mosquitos can breed in as little as a bottle cap full of water. So that's very important to know that 1000s of mosquitos can breed in very little water.”

This includes draining anything that can collect water outdoors like garbage cans, buckets, pool covers, plastic swimming pools, toys, and even plants.

“We see bromeliads throughout southwest Florida and while they are gorgeous, they have a cup like center and that holds rainwater,” Hollingsworth said. “So those sorts of plants need to be rinsed out at least once a week.”

To prevent mosquitos from reproducing in these specific standing water sources, swimming pools must be appropriately chlorinated and kept in good condition, and birdbaths and pet water bowls should be cleaned once or twice a week.

To protect ourselves from bites, it’s recommended that broken screens covering windows, doors, porches, and patios be repaired to prevent mosquitos from coming indoors.

Southwest Florida residents should cover up by wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toed shoes and mosquito repellent. The Florida Department of Health in Collier County recommends using mosquito repellent with any of these ingredients: 10-30% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.

Mosquitos can cause more than itchy raised bumps on the skin. In more serious cases, mosquito bites can transmit illnesses. Common mosquito-borne illness symptoms include headache, fever, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, and confusion.

“Mosquitos can transmit various illnesses, not only to humans, but also to livestock and pets,” Hollingsworth said. “So, we are always conducting statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, which include West Nile virus, Saint Louis encephalitis, dengue, there's chikungunya, malaria, there's a variety of these mosquito-borne illnesses that are transmitted.”

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Hayley Lemery