Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Opinion

Know the facts of West Nile virus in Pasco County

The recent outbreak of West Nile virus is one of the largest on record since the first human cases were reported in the United States in 1999.

Cases peaked in 2002 and 2003 when severe illnesses reached nearly 3,000 and deaths surpassed 260. Last year was mild with fewer than 700 cases nationwide.

This year, cases jumped dramatically in August, increasing to 1,331 with 43 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid August. Only one month ago, there were only 25 cases reported.

These numbers will likely rise since August to October is the peak of West Nile virus activity in Florida and other Southern states.

Nearly half of all U.S. cases this year are in Texas. The hot, dry weather across the nation's midsection has created ideal conditions for some species of mosquitoes. The heat speeds up their life cycle, which accelerates the virus replication process.

The mosquito species that can carry West Nile virus — as well as St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis and dengue fever — are always present in Pasco County. Residents should be vigilant after the recent rains that created an abundance of standing water in ditches and back yards. Some areas received over 15 inches of rain in the end of June as a result of Tropical Storm Debby, and the steady rainfalls continue to keep Pasco County saturated.

As rainfall continues to create ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, more cases could potentially appear throughout Florida. State health officials confirm that positive samples from 14 humans and 83 sentinel chickens have been received from 13 Florida counties. A mosquito-borne illness alert was issued recently for Jacksonville by the Duval County Health Department after 11 human cases of West Nile virus were confirmed. Others cases are in Escambia and Leon counties.

Every week during the mosquito season, the Pasco County Mosquito Control staff draws a small amount of blood from sentinel chickens in cages throughout the county. The health department 's Tampa branch lab checks the blood for signs of several diseases potentially transmitted by mosquitoes. So far this year, only one sentinel chicken in Pasco County tested positive for West Nile virus.

According to the Florida Department of Health, many people infected with West Nile virus never experience symptoms. Those who do can develop headaches, fever, pain and fatigue, lasting from a few days to two weeks. There is no specific medication or treatment for people infected with the disease. The best plan is to avoid mosquito bites. One way is to stay indoors at dawn and dusk, the peak flying time for mosquitoes. If you're outside, wear insect repellent or clothing that covers your skin.

This year, the Pasco County Mosquito Control District will set a record for the number of acres sprayed because of our very wet summer. It is our hope that our proactive approach to aggressively control mosquitoes in Pasco County will avoid a similar situation to what's happening in Texas.

Residents can also help by removing mosquito-breeding sites. Tip or remove empty pots and buckets, and dispose of old tires, drums, bottles and cans. Replace water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least once a week. Remove leaves and other debris from gutters. Avoid overwatering the lawn. Wash out bromeliads and other water-holding plants weekly and cover or drain unused swimming pools.

To learn more, visit cdc.gov/westnile or our website at pascomosquito.org.

Dennis Moore is director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District.

Comments
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17