‘Tis the season - to be wary

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By Mark Scohier

Recent rain and the mosquitoes it will inevitably help breed is prompting area officials to remind people to take precautions this summer.

Matt Weldon, head of Parks and Recreation and mosquito control for the county, said issues with mosquitoes are typical for this time of year, and populations are not expected, at this point, to be out of the ordinary.

“That’s not to say that next week we couldn’t have something pop up.” he said. “We need our residents to be aware and vigilant.”

There are about 80 known species of mosquito in Florida, with 40 of them living in Levy County.

Mosquito-borne viruses and diseases in Florida include Malaria, West Nile virus, Dengue Fever, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, St. Louis encephalitis, Highlands J virus and several viruses in the California encephalitis group.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Levy County is now one of four counties in the state under a mosquito-borne illness advisory. Neighboring Gilchrist County is another. 

There have been seven cases of Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) reported in horses since the beginning of the year. Four of those came from Gilchrist County, and three of those cases were reported last week. 

One horse and a man living near Bronson came down with EEEV at the beginning of the year. The man, one of only two to contract the disease in Florida this year, later died, though his death was not necessarily linked to EEEV.

To help keep mosquitoes at bay, Levy County officials recommend practicing “the five Ds.”

• Dusk and Dawn are when mosquitoes are most active and when outside activities should be limited.

•  Dress so that skin is covered. Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

• Drain and empty outside containers and objects where stagnant water will allow the growth of mosquito larvae.

“Look around your yard,” Weldon advised, “and I promise you’ll find something raising mosquitoes.” And, typically, those mosquitoes don’t migrate too far, he said.

All mosquito larvae need water to develop, and they prefer slow-moving and stagnant water that can be trapped in old, clogged gutters, tires, buckets, toys, trash and even unused boats.

Hollow stumps and holes in trees can be a problem, too, and should be filled with sand or mortar. Ornamental water gardens and ponds should be stocked with fish such as gambusia, goldfish or guppies, which eat mosquito larvae.

A tablespoon of water from some of these sources can contain more than 200 mosquitoes, and, when conditions are right, the insects can be out flying around in as little as four days.

• Deet mosquito repellant is the fifth “D” and is one of the best at warding off biting insects, though repellants containing deet are not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age.

For more information, call Levy County Mosquito Control at 352-486-5127.