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Mosquito-borne illnesses in our area - are we at risk?

by Lt. Col. Yolanda A. Geddie
Public Health flight commander

According to the Department of Health for the State of Florida: to date, 21 of Florida's 67 counties have reported West Nile Virus activity, 19 have reported Eastern Equine Encephalitis activity, two have reported St. Louis Encephalitis activity and eight have reported Highlands J activity. Last year at this time, 29 of Florida's 67 counties had reported WNV activity, 46 had reported EEE activity, and two had reported Highlands J activity.

With that report we could conclude we are in better shape this year than last. However, the recent rains are our biggest hindrance in our fight against the pesky mosquito. You see, water is a mosquito's best friend.

The rain provides the standing water in containers and pools that allow the mosquito to reproduce and multiply their attack forces. The rain also hampers surveillance and pesticide applications since it dilutes chemicals and renders efforts much less effective. The bottom line is everyone must be involved to reduce the numbers of breeding and hatching sites on base.

After a rain, go out and empty all standing water around your home. Don't forget those bowls under those beautiful plants around your house. Look at puddles and dishes for larval activity (wigglers) and report this activity to Civil Engineer Customer Service so they can dispatch our Entymology Office with appropriate larvicidal bacteria that specifically attack the mosquito larva before it can become and adult and bite.

It should be mentioned there have been only two cases of WN virus in humans this year and they were from Sarasota. Based on the epidemiological investigation involving these two cases, it was determined they most likely contracted the virus during out of state travel.

The State of Florida uses some very interesting surveillance tools to tell if our human population is at an increased risk from these mosquito-borne illnesses. There are "sentential birds" (chickens) and wild bird activity as well. Watching horse populations also gives us an indication what is happening in our area since these animals are outside much more than the average person. So far, the activity among these creatures could be considered very light to moderate.

The local county health department also collects adult mosquitoes and routinely tests them for viral content. To date, no activity has been reported in mosquito pools this year that shold be of any concern(the WN virus was not found in trapped mosquitoes). We can certainly take some degree of comfort in this report.

 

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