Chikungunya cases lead to mosquito warnings in Florida

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Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014 9:42 am

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- It's that time of year again: mosquito time. And it’s been highlighted recently with a confirmed case of what is called chikungunya in Charlotte County last week.

Chikungunya is a rare disease spread by mosquitoes. Monday, ABC 7 talked to local experts about what the odds are of more cases appearing and what's being done to combat the pests.

This is the time of year when mosquitoes are becoming more prevalent, and we are told that the most activity in Sarasota County is in the North Port area.

The weather is hot and rainy, so the fact that mosquitoes are here is no real surprise. What is new to many is a disease with a funny name called chikungunya. 18 cases have been reported in the state: one in Lee County and now in Charlotte County.

Sarasota County mosquito manager Matt Smith has been following the spread and says he's really not surprised. "I knew it was just a matter of time before we started seeing cases; definitely in the Caribbean and some imported cases in Florida."

Similar to dengue fever, chikungunya can make you sick like the flu, causing severe joint pain.

“We have not had a locally squired case." State Health Department officials like Michael Drennon say so far there are no cases of someone getting bit by a mosquito in Florida and acquiring the disease. Instead, they are getting bit outside of the country and returning home. "It is important to know they are out there and to do the investigation, but we are not sending out a code red or anything like that."

Right now the odds are pretty low you would catch any type of mosquito-carried disease. However, you can still get bit up.

Smith says they're seeing increases in certain areas. “In the past couple weeks we have seen population increases in the North Port and Venice area. We did put together a couple of flights with our contractor and did some aerial spraying."

They've been going after the salt marsh mosquito. It reproduces quickly in swampy areas.

Last week smith says they sprayed more than 25,000 acres and it appears to be working. "The traps went from the thousands to some in the single digits. It's nice to see. It's a huge response."

In the meantime, they're continuing to monitor for diseases like encephalitis and the west nile virus. Names we've heard before.

They’re also asking everyone to get rid of standing water in yards, dress appropriately, and put on some sort repellant. “We can't reach everyone. We can't go to every house. It's really important for people to understand that mosquito management starts with them at their house."

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