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Yes, There Are More Mosquitoes, And That Comes With More Disease Risk

Matti Parkkonen (Wikimedia Commons)

By Abe Aboraya

Florida travelers are catching serious mosquito-born diseases abroad, including dengue fever, chikungunya, malaria and Zika virus. Still, officials say the numbers are low and there’s no reason to panic. 

To be clear, there are no outbreak zones for any of these diseases in Florida where people are catching the disease from locals. But an increase in mosquitoes does increase the possibility that people could catch it from someone who travels.

Orange County Mosquito Control Manager Steve Harrison said the county has found 6,000 more mosquitoes in the traps it uses to monitor the population in the last week alone. Residents should drain any standing water to prevent mosquitoes, he said.

“A lot of times we’ll show up in response to a mosquito complaint from residents, and a lot of times they’re breeding their own mosquitoes,” Harrison said.

The most recent health department data found a Seminole County chicken with West Nile Virus and an Osceola County horse with Eastern Equine Encephalitis. No humans have been infected, but health officials monitor animals for those diseases because mosquitoes can transmit them from animals to people.

“I don’t want anybody to panic because these viruses aren’t in high numbers, it’s actually relatively low numbers, so just have them prepare,” Harrison said. In addition to draining water, health department officials also recommend using DEET repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people traveling to Brazil and Nigeria protect against mosquitoes because of ongoing yellow fever cases.

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by AdventHealth.

Copyright 2019 Health News Florida

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.