The Florida Department of Health in Flagler County (DOH-Flagler) encourages all residents and visitors to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses and prevent mosquito bites. Last week, an emu kept as a pet in Flagler County tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, a mosquito-borne alphavirus, first recognized in humans in 1938. This virus cycles between Culiseta melanura mosquitoes and birds in freshwater swampy areas.
Given that there are no human vaccines or preventative drugs for EEE, the best protection against infection is to avoid getting bit by mosquitos. DOH-Flagler will continue surveillance, including testing humans who have been in contact with the emu, as well as other animals. As a precaution, people who own livestock in western Flagler County, particularly those with horses, emus, ostriches, llamas or alpacas, should speak with their veterinarian about EEE vaccination.
To protect against mosquito bites, it’s important to remember the basics: “Drain and Cover”:
DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.
- Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
- Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
- Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week.
- Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
- Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
COVER skin with clothing or repellent.
- Clothing – Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
- Repellent – Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
- Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, para menthane diol, and IR3535 are effective.
- Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
Permethrin insecticide can also be applied to clothing and gear (but not skin).
COVER doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.
- Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.
For more information on what repellent is right for you, consider using the Environmental Protection Agency’s search tool to help you choose skin-applied repellent products: https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.