It all starts in gutters, birdbaths and trashcans. Add in an occasional afternoon thunderstorm, let the remaining standing water sit for seven days, and you’ve got breeding ground for some of Central Florida’s smallest and peskiest residents. This year some of the mosquitoes moving in have brought with them a very unwelcome house-warming gift: Chikungunya. You may not be able to pronounce it, but Orange County doctors can assure that you don’t want it.
The Chikungunya virus comes disguised as the flu with high fever and the added ailment of severe joint pain, particularly in the hands and feet. It’s transmitted from human to mosquito, then mosquito to human. Cases of the virus have spiked from an average of 28 people per year diagnosed in the U.S. and its territories from 2006 to 2013, to 497 cases so far this year alone – according to numbers reported by the Orange County Mosquito Control Division as of July 22. As of that date, 77 Floridians had been infected, two of them from mosquito bites sustained in-state. The other cases occurred during travel outside of the continental U.S., primarily in the Caribbean.
Dr. Tom Breaud, manager for the Orange County Mosquito Control Division, said there is no cure or vaccine from the virus, which is seldom fatal, cannot be spread from human-to-human, and usually resolves on its own.
“The only intervention at this current time is to make sure the mosquitoes don’t bite you,” Breaud said.
There are two types of mosquitoes transferring the virus locally: the Asian Tiger and Yellow Fever mosquitoes. Breaud said these mosquitoes, unlike most types locals are familiar with, feed during the day, making it important to take precautions at all hours – not just dusk.
Breaud encourages Orange County residents to wear mosquito repellant with DEET to keep the bites at bay. But he said the most important precaution residents can take to keep the virus from becoming a full-out outbreak in Central Florida is to clear out all standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
“It doesn’t take much water. We’ve found these mosquitoes breeding even in water accumulated at the bottom of discarded potato chip bags,” Breaud said. “That’s why people really need to be aware of any water that might be accumulating around their properties.”
Breaud said Orange County has stepped up its mosquito patrols in response to the increased threat of Chikungunya, and encourages residents to do their own searches at home, flushing out any areas of standing water at least every seven days.
Orange County residents who’d like their properties searched by the pros of the Orange County Mosquito Control Division can call 407-254-9120 to schedule an appointment.