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'Drain and cover' to help prevent mosquito-borne illnesses

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Bromiliads have a cuplike center that holds rainwater that needs to be rinsed out at least once a week, health officials recommend.

Standing water is the main culprit, and it can collect in places such as as trash cans, buckets, pool covers and even on plants like bromeliads.

Florida's rainy season has just begun, which means residents should begin taking precautionary measures to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County emphasizes that mosquito-borne illnesses can be prevented by draining standing water and covering up.

“Words to live by are ‘drain and cover,’ ” department spokeswoman Kristine Hollingsworth said. “When we say drain, drain standing water. Mosquitos can breed in as little as a bottle cap full of water. So that's very important to know that thousands of mosquitos can breed in very little water.”

This includes draining anything that can collect water outdoors such as trash cans, buckets, pool covers, plastic swimming pools, toys and even plants.

“We see bromeliads throughout Southwest Florida, and while they are gorgeous, they have a cuplike center and that holds rainwater,” Hollingsworth said. “So those sorts of plants need to be rinsed out at least once a week.”

In addition, swimming pools must be appropriately chlorinated and kept in good condition, and birdbaths and pet water bowls should be cleaned once or twice a week.

To protect from mosquito bites, it’s recommended that broken screens covering windows, doors and porches, and that patios be repaired to prevent insects from coming indoors.

Residents should cover up by wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toed shoes and mosquito repellent.

The department recommends using mosquito repellent with any of these ingredients: 10 to 30 percent DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.

Mosquitos can cause more than itchy raised bumps on the skin. In more serious cases, bites can transmit illnesses. Common mosquito-borne illness symptoms include headache, fever, fatigue, dizziness, weakness and confusion.

“Mosquitos can transmit various illnesses, not only to humans, but also to livestock and pets,” Hollingsworth said. “So, we are always conducting statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, which include West Nile virus, Saint Louis encephalitis, dengue, there's chikungunya, malaria, there's a variety of these mosquito-borne illnesses that are transmitted.”