Locals Urged to Clean up to Prevent New Mosquito-Borne Viruses

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With all the rain we've had this spring, health officials have been warning about a boom in the mosquito population. Now they're warning about two mosquito-borne diseases posing a serious threat to Florida residents.

Dengue fever and chiungunya have made their way to Florida. A leading expert at the University Florida says it's the worst threat he's ever seen.

24 Flordians recently came down with dengue and 18 with chikungunya. Fortunately none of the cases occurred here in the Panhandle, but Bay County Health officials are keeping their eye on mosquito borne illnesses anyway.

"Anywhere in Florida (or) in the Southeastern United States we should be concerned about mosquito borne illnesses," said Michael Templin, Environmental Health Specialist.

Health experts say all of the patients contracted the illnesses in the Caribbean and brought them back to the US. They're transmitted when a mosquito bites and ingests the blood of an infected person, then bites and transfers the disease to an uninfected person.

Get rid of the mosquitoes, and you get rid of the threat. Templin said, "Ways to do that is make sure they don't have breeding sites."

Here are a number of things you should be doing to protect yourself and your family.

Templin said, "We should already be protecting ourselves from that by draining standing water around our houses and making sure we're covered with clothes that are insect repellent when we go outside."

Pay special attention to standing water around fruit trees, where fruit can fall into the water.

"Mosquitos can actually extend their lifetime by finding water that has sugar in it," he said.

Dengue fever can be fatal. Chikungunya is rarely deadly, but its effects can be long lasting.

The most common symptoms of dengue and chikungunya are fever and joint pain.