Health officials say mosquito populations have exploded during summer's heavy rains and that is posing some real challenges for panhandle health officials.
Walton, Washington and Holmes counties are all under an advisory for an increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses.
"There are three basic illnesses that are out in the population right now,” said Doug Kent with Bay County Health Department. “SLE which is St. Louis Encephalitis, EEE, which is for horses and West Nile."
Area horse owners are taking steps to protect their animals from several diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
"You can see all the horses have fly masks on," said Beth Graham with Misty Meadows Stables and Training Facility.
Two horses have died from EEE infections in Holmes County and one person who lives in Holmes, but works in Washington County, has contracted the virus.
"It deals with a fever to a severe headache,” said Kent. “Things you would go in for any kind of virus."
If untreated, EEE can be fatal to anyone who has been infected.
"Recognize that this is a possibility. You've got the vectors in the area and its a possibility,” said Kent. “The most important thing is we've had no conversions in our area. It looks like the virus is not in our area, but is around us."
To protect yourself and your family from mosquito-borne illnesses, health officials recommend you observe the 5-"D's".
Drain standing water that act as breeding areas for the insects. Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are seeking blood. Dress in clothing that covers most of your skin.
Use mosquito repellents that contain at least 30% of the active ingredient "Deet". And if you have horses, be sure to keep them vaccinated.
“Bay County comes out here every other week and sprays for mosquitoes,” said Graham. “We try to keep fly spray on the horses which prevents mosquitoes. we try to keep the water down as much as possible but with the rain its very hard to do.
Health officials say sentinel chickens have contracted West Nile virus but there are not any other cases reported at this time.