Here's how to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases

Health officials warn of increase in mosquito-borne disease activity

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Health officials are warning Orange County residents to protect themselves amid an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity.

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County said Wednesday that several chickens in the same flock tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) infection and that the risk of transmitting it to humans has increased.

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Officials said the county's mosquito control agencies will continue surveillance and prevention efforts, but urged residents to take measures to protect themselves and limit their exposure to EEEV.

To protect yourself from mosquitoes, health officials want you to remember to "drain and cover."

Drain standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots 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 pets' 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 make sure they are appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Cover skin with clothing or repellent.

  • Clothing - Wear shoes, socks and long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Repellent - Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
    • Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535 are effective.
    • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

The department also offered the following tips on repellent use:

  • Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
  • Products with concentrations of up to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are generally recommended. Other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, or onto clothing, but not under clothing.
  • In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of 3 years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than 2 months old.
  • Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.
  • If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Health officials also encourage residents to cover their doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out and repair any broken screening on windows, doors, porches and patios.

If you need help finding a repellent that's right for you, the Environmental Protection Agency has a search tool you can use to browse repellent products.

In the meantime, Floridians are encouraged to report dead birds to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

For more information, visit the Department of Health's website.

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