A mosquito-borne illness advisory is going out from the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, after the first case of West Nile in 2016 was confirmed.
The advisory means there’s a heightened concern that other Escambia County residents and visitors could become ill from a bite by a mosquito carrying the illness.
“In the state of Florida, there’s a threat of the West Nile virus essentially 12 months out of the year,” said Dr. John Lanza, Director of DOH-Escambia. “We do realize that it’s more significant from July through November.”
This is the fifth consecutive year that West Nile has been located in Escambia County. The disease affects different people in different ways, such as being mistaken for other ailments.
“You don’t have the respiratory side with West Nile or other mosquito-borne illnesses, but you can mistake the signs and symptoms of flu, or West Nile for flu,” said Lanza.
About 75 percent of people bitten don’t show symptoms. Others begin to show symptoms from three to 14 days later. And of those, about 20 percent are hit pretty hard.
“Fever, headache, delirium, body aches and pains, seizures, coma, and sometimes, in the worst case, death,” Lanza said. “There is no treatment for any viral, mosquito-borne disease. You just treat symptoms.”
Encephalitis, meningitis, and other neuro-invasive diseases develop in less than one percent of West Nile patients. While the odds are in your favor if you get a mosquito bite, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still urge self-protection.
“It’s easier now wearing long sleeves-long pants during dusk and dawn when we see most of the mosquito activities,” said Lanza. “Still, we suggest using DEET, either on our skin or on our clothes, [and] of course, we would like to see people have screens on their windows.”
That’s the “cover” part of “drain and cover.” The drain part is to get rid of all standing water, which mosquitoes need for their life cycle. And when draining, Lanza says don’t forget what’s collected indoors.
“If you have the saucer container on the bottom of your flowerpot,” Lanza says. “I have found mosquito larvae inside my house. You don’t think about that.”
Lanza also reminds everyone that West Nile is not spread through person-to-person contact, such as touching, kissing, or caring for someone who’s infected.