Malaria concerns have Polk County mosquito control working extra hours
Polk County is working to make sure the odds of malaria spreading northward from Sarasota are as low as possible.
Health officials are continuing to monitor Florida’s mosquito population after six locally acquired cases of malaria were found in northern Sarasota County in recent weeks.
The Florida Department of Health issued a mosquito-borne illness advisoryin June after four people tested positive.
Meanwhile, Polk County is working to make sure the odds of malaria spreading are as low as possible.
“Every mosquito control program is working overtime to do what it takes to make sure that the citizens and their counties are safe. And we do the same here,” said Jackson Mosley, interim director of Polk County Mosquito Control.
The agency is putting in extra hours and treatment to work on eliminating the common malaria mosquito species, anopheles mosquito.
The team is spraying a biocontrol larvicide in ditches and shallow ponds where anopheles lay eggs, Mosley said. Polk has over 500 lakes for possible breeding, and also plenty of flooded-out areas due to summer rainfall. Despite the daunting task of covering a large area, Mosely is confident malaria won’t spread up to Central Florida.
“We are trying to stay out in front of it. We don't want to have an accidental situation occur here,” he said.
Mosley also said that despite overall mosquito populations being up this summer, anopheles typically isn’t as prevalent in Florida until the colder months of the year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s been 20 years since the last time Florida had locally acquired cases of malaria. One positive case was found this year in an Orange County hospital, but the virus was determined to have been acquired from outside the country.
As far as protecting residential areas, Mosely has a very easy way Central Florida residents can help reduce the spread.
"Drain and cover," he said. "Anytime you have containers around your home, even the simplest containers, whether it's a tire, whether it's a flower pot, a toy like a Tonka toy in the yard or a birdbath those are great places for mosquitoes to have their eggs in and produce more mosquitoes."
The Department of Health also issued a release offering several ways to stay safe from malaria including wearing long sleeve clothes and repellent.
Polk, Orange and several other Central Florida counties are also under another mosquito-borne illness advisory for Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, which causes a neurological disease that can produce symptoms of headaches, seizures, and behavioral changes.
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