TAMPA — Health Department officials warned southern Hillsborough County residents Friday of an increased risk for mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile Virus.
Several sentinel chicken flocks recently tested positive for the virus, and officials are continuing to test for other illnesses, including Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria and dengue.
Steve Huard, spokesman for the Hillsborough Health Department, said the risk this year comes at an earlier time than usual.
While there hasn't been a human case of West Nile Virus in the past few years, it doesn't mean people shouldn't be vigilant, Huard said.
"With all the rain that we've had, we just want people to start thinking about it earlier rather than later — before we have any actual cases," Huard said.
The department recommends staying inside with screened doors and windows when mosquitoes start biting, applying mosquito repellent, emptying containers of standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs, cleaning out gutters, replacing water in birdbaths, and removing any obstructions in drainage ditches that prevent water from flowing.
Anyone who sees dead birds should report them at http://myfwc.com/bird/. For more information, visit http://www.doh.state.fl.us/Environment/medicine/arboviral/index.html, or call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 1-888-880-5782.
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