Florida Department of Health warns of mosquitoes transmitting malaria

Recent malaria cases in Florida are the first in 20 years

The Florida Department of Health is issuing a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory after four confirmed cases of malaria in Sarasota County.

So far, each person has been treated and recovered.

These are the first cases of local malaria infections in the United States in 20 years. FDOH said the disease is transmitted through infected mosquitoes.

Health officials urged residents around the state to take precautions by applying bug spray, wearing long pants and shirts when possible, and avoiding areas with high mosquito populations.

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That won’t be an easy feat for Volusia County residents who live in the Sugar Forest community.

Chuck Helman blames a burned, battered and unoccupied home on Sugar House Boulevard for attracting the insects.

“This is ridiculous, you would think that we’re living in a pond with all the mosquitos,” Helman said.

His neighbor, Tobie Caraway, had cancer — and this could be another health risk.

“That’s terrible. I knew you could get malaria around the world... but I didn’t think it would come to this point where it’s in the state of Florida,” Caraway said.

Steve Harrison is the manager for Orange County Mosquito Control.

He said three factors would help determine immediate risk in the county.

“We would have to have the pathogen. We would have to have the competent vector, and then we would have to have a susceptible population,” Harrison said.

Harrison said healthcare professionals may begin to keep an eye out for patients who show up at the hospital or clinic with signs of malaria.

If the health department identifies a case, they notify mosquito control.

Harrison said they would then target control measures into the area where the patient lived when they got sick.

So far, no cases have been reported in Central Florida.

The health department advises the public though to protect themselves by remembering to “Drain and Cover.”

Here’s a list of tips from FDOH:

DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots, or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater 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 and keep them appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

COVER doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.

  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

COVER skin with clothing or appropriate repellent.

  • Clothing - 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.
  • Repellent - Apply mosquito repellent appropriately.
  • Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanone, and IR3535 are effective.
  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

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About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.