Robin Napier from the Department of Health and Sandra Fisher from Hernando County Mosquito Control presented information about the Zika virus at a recent Hernando Board of County Commissioners meeting. Ms. Napier described symptoms of the illness, which is passed through the bite of the mosquito, as mild, with a rash and fever.
In Florida there are sixteen documented cases in seven counties, and none in Hernando County. They all appear to be travel related and there are none reported in pregnant women. On February 3, 2016 Governor Rick Scott and Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong declared a state of emergency in the affected counties.
Ms. Napier stated the best response for the public is to eliminate the means for the mosquitoes to reproduce. She suggested that normal precautions of covering windows with screens, wearing repellant, covering skin with clothing, and draining even small pools of standing water would be helpful. Ms. Napier recommended that residents contact their neighbors to remind them of the need to be vigilant.
Ms. Fisher described the difference between the mosquitoes that Floridians in this area are accustomed to and the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not established in Hernando County and is not active in cold weather. It is also called the Yellow Fever mosquito. Ms. Fisher stated the mosquito common to central Florida is the Aedes Albopictus.
Transmission of the Zika virus follows the “mosquito to person to mosquito” pattern so it does not show up in the sentinel chickens which are used to monitor the West Nile virus. Symptoms of the disease are very mild and therefore individuals are more likely to go out in public. They may not seek medical treatment unless they see a rash.
Ms. Fisher echoed Ms. Napier’s recommendation of maintaining the usual precautions of covering the skin with clothing, using a repellant with Deet, and avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn. Ms. Fisher added that it is very important to check yards daily for any standing water as the mosquito can lay eggs in even a capful of water.
Mosquito Control will be doing door to door education, which is very labor intensive. Their main resource is their staff. Areas where mosquitoes are known to breed are mapped, but Ms. Fisher stated spraying is done at night, while the mosquitoes are active in the day. Ms. Fisher remarked that there is a “Crime Watch” in some neighborhoods, and that a similar “Mosquito Watch” program might be useful to remind neighbors to “drain and cover” small pools of water.
Mosquito Control does have information posted on the county webpage as well as on Facebook. A written notice is also placed on the reverse side of the city water bill. Volunteers for the door to door campaign may be needed. Please call Mosquito Control at 352-540-6552 for more information about the Zika virus.
Daily updates from the State Surgeon General are posted on the Department of Health website at http://hernando.floridahealth.gov/.