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County tackles mosquito problem following Irma
September 27, 2017

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Lehigh Acres residents not only have been dealing with a lack of electricity and water following Hurricane Irma, but they also are encountering a rise in mosquitoes.

"We started off with some extremely high numbers due to flooding earlier in the year. Although the winds from Irma may have blown some mosquitos away, we are facing a new problem," Shelly Redovan, deputy director of education and communications at the Lee County Mosquito Control District, said.

According to Redovan, officials are seeing an increase in psorophora and culex mosquitos.

"While the psorophora mosquitos are mainly drawn to new water, the culex tends to gravitate to areas with standing water and produce new adult batches daily, so that compounds issues," she said.

Culex mosquitos usually show up in places where standing water remains for more than 10 days.

"Due to the excess water Irma left behind, we are seeing these mosquitos in large numbers. It worries us because this species can carry diseases such as West Nile virus," Redovan said.

On Sept. 18, Mosquito Control preformed its first round of treatments on the mosquitoes.

"Our first area of concern was Lehigh Acres, which had flooding, power outages and loss of water service. We chose to do an aerial adulticide due to the expansiveness of the area," she said.

Other sections of Lee County targeted for expedited treatments include Corkscrew, Bonita Springs, Buckingham, North Fort Myers and Pine Island.

"Those residents with power loss and high mosquitos counts are the first ones we are responding to," Redovan said. "Bonita, for example, is hard to get to because they still have quite a bit of flooding, so we can only treat that area by air."

People are not the only ones under attack from the tiny, biting pests. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Animal Industries, it is important to prevent animals from exposure to adult mosquitoes.

They advise keeping horses stabled indoors during peak mosquito feeding times and the use of mosquito-resistant devices, such as well-maintained insect screening and fans.

Of most concern are dogs, which are extremely susceptible to getting heartworm.

"Many mosquitos carry heartworm, so it's important to protect them by administering heartworm medication monthly. It's also a good idea to keep them inside as much as possible," she said.

According to Redovan, it will probably take one more treatment to get the local mosquito population under control, but there are things people can do to reduce the risk of being bitten.

The Department of Health recommends the following:

- Apply repellent. Using mosquito repellent is one of the most important ways to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

- Wear light-colored clothing that covers most of your skin.

- Ensure or restore all window and door screens are secure and functional.

- Check around your home to rid the area of standing water, which is where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.

- Clear rain gutters; keep pools chlorinated; flush or treat bromeliad plants; change water in birdbaths once a week; remove obstructions to water flow in drainage ditches; and remove, cover, invert or dump containers that hold water.

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