The bug to watch for is the Aedes mosquito, a small biter that is black with white spots and lives right outside or inside your house. They specialize in biting humans, and stay active all day.
Aedes mosquitoes carry Zika virus and other tropical viruses such as chikungunya and dengue fever. Last year, Florida reported 1,450 cases of Zika and 53 so far this year. The majority of cases were in people who contracted the virus while traveling outside the country.
Zika generally causes mild symptoms in adults and children, but it can cause severe birth defects to the unborn child of a woman who contracts the virus.
Zika may appear again this year when rains hatch mosquito eggs. Floridians should not become complacent about mosquito protection.
“Everyone should be aware of mosquitoes and take steps to protect themselves,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. “The best way to do that is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. We recommend a practice called Drain and Cover.”
Drain standing water in and around the house. Eliminate even puddles because Aedes can breed in containers as small as a bottle cap.
Get rid of water that collects in garbage cans, tires, buckets, roof gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots and plants with pockets, such as bromeliads. Discard items where rain or sprinkler water collects. Clean bird baths and pet water bowls twice a week. Inside the home, Aedes can breed where water collects, such as refrigerator ice makers, electric toothbrush holders and drips under sinks.
Cover yourself and the openings in your home. If you go outdoors when mosquitoes are active, wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. Spray your skin and clothing with repellent containing DEET or other approved ingredients (check the label). Keep windows and doors closed, and repair damaged screening.