A human case of the West Nile virus has been confirmed in Pasco County, and officials are advising residents to take precautions to avoid becoming ill.
It is important for people to “cover and drain” — meaning they should wear clothing or use repellent to avoid mosquito bites and should drain standing water on their property, said Deanna Krautner, public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County.
West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most people who are infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms, but about one-in-five people infected will develop a fever with other symptoms, the CDC said. Less than 1 percent of those infected will develop a serious and sometimes fatal neurological illness.
The cool weather is drawing more people outdoors, Krautner said, and recent rains have left puddles of standing water on many properties. That can spell greater opportunity for mosquito bites and the illnesses that can accompany them.
To help avoid potential illness, the health department recommends a number of precautions.
To reduce exposure to mosquitoes, residents should:
• Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots, or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
• Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
• Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week.
• Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
• Maintain swimming pools in good condition, and appropriately chlorinate them. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
• Cover skin with clothing or repellent. Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
• Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing, and use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months.
When it comes to using repellents, members of the Pasco County division of the health department suggests people read label directions carefully, since some repellents are not suitable for children.
Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET are generally recommended. Other approved repellents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency including Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.
Repellent should be applied to exposed skin or onto clothing, but not under clothing.
Published October 1, 2014
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