Florida Keys News
Monday, June 30, 2014
Rainy season breeds mosquitoes
Mosquito control asks residents to dump standing water

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Executive Director Michael Doyle likens killing mosquitoes to "urban guerilla warfare."

"It really is," Doyle said. "We are treating thousands of acres a month by both land and air."

In the first week of June, district inspectors visited 662 properties in Key West and treated 241 of them, according to Mosquito Control Operations Director Andrea Leal.

Instead of rehydrating this hot summer, Doyle is asking people to dehydrate -- remove stagnant water from their bird baths, garbage can lids and other containers.

The Florida Keys are in the midst of the rainy season and Doyle is trying to make removing free-standing water a regular household chore that can be done in conjunction with taking out the trash, or cleaning up the yard.

"People need to check their yards and look for any free-standing water -- bird baths, small cups, boat covers," Doyle said.

Another big concern is old cisterns that are not in use but are still collecting water, Doyle said. A 1953 mosquito control annual report stated there were 4,300 cisterns in Key West.

"Where did they go?" Doyle asked. "We find them all the time. They are a problem."

Doyle is even trying to come up with a catch slogan to remind people to check for free-standing water, but has yet to come up with something pithy enough, he admits.

Compounding the urgency to remove free-standing water is an outbreak of chikungunya virus in the Caribbean.

There have been about 50 reported cases in Miami-Dade County, Doyle said.

Those cases involve people who traveled to the Caribbean and brought the disease back with them, Doyle said.

There have been no reported cases in the Keys.

The virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain.

Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.

"We're preparing, but we need the public's help," Doyle said. "We can't be everywhere all of the time. We need to step it up because the risk is higher. This is the perfect time to step up our efforts."

Because of public safety issues of mosquitoes carrying tropical viruses such as dengue fever and chikungunya, mosquito control workers do have the authority to go into people's yards when they are not home.

Doyle urged residents to call the district if there is free-standing water in a neighbor's yard or in a vacant lot.

"It only makes sense that we do what we can to be proactive," he said.

tohara@keysnews.com

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