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Local News

Mosquito Season Underway: Protect Yourself

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Mosquitoes are starting to appear in larger numbers, as the weather warms toward late spring and summer. Residents are advised to take the necessary steps to protect themselves.       

The Florida Department of Health reports 94 Zika cases statewide as of Tuesday, including one Santa Rosa who has since made a full recovery. County spokeswoman Brandi Whitehurst says despite Zika’s growing presence elsewhere, Santa Rosa Mosquito Control is not changing its approach.

“The mosquito-borne viruses that we’ve been dealing with for the past several years have included St. Louis encephalitis; Eastern Equine encephalitis, and West Nile virus,” said Brandi Whitehurst, Santa Rosa County Public Information Officer. “So, Santa Rosa County is accustomed to handling dangerous mosquito-borne viruses.”

The work to hold down this year’s mosquito population began last winter, when the insect’s larvae was targeted prior to spraying for adult mosquitoes.

Another component is a surveillance and evaluation program with Florida State University, where traps are set for mosquitoes and an entomologist analyzes the data. Meanwhile, Whitehurst says the spraying has been underway for about the past two months using a set protocol.

“We can only spray at night, when the mosquitoes come out; the humidity has to be just right, no wind,” Whitehurst says. “There’s [sic] all these different variables that are set by the state.”

“Drain and cover, put the screens up if you don’t have it, take care of yourself, take care of your family; because that also leads to taking care of your neighbors,” said Escambia County Health Director Dr. John Lanza. He says there are some common-sense measures of self-protection, collectively known as “drain and cover.” Long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are at their thickest, is the “cover” part.

“Loose-fitting, lighter-colored clothing is the way to go with that,” Lanza said. “A hat also helps protect your head. The other part, other than the clothing, is DEET. Put the DEET either on yourself or on your clothes, and it’s very effective.”

The “drain” part is making sure all standing water is dumped, including what’s accumulated indoors.

“Even something as small as a bottle cap – a water bottle cap that holds just a couple of drops of water – mosquitoes can breed in those,” says Santa Rosa County’s Brandi Whitehurst.

Whitehurst adds that the more residents can do around their homes, the more they help Mosquito Control.

“These mosquitoes are not breeding in the swamps, and then coming out and chasing you down the road to bite you,” Whitehurst says. “These mosquitoes live on your front porch; they’re in your flower pots, they’re in your birdbaths. They’re your mosquitoes.”

For more information on mosquito-borne and other insect-borne diseases, visit: www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases.