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Idalia aftermath may pose new risks for mosquito-borne illness

Malaria advisory lifted Tuesday in Manatee, Sarasota counties
Posted at 5:58 PM, Sep 12, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Despite the lifting of a health alert for malaria Tuesday, officials are warning that rain and flooding from Hurricane Idalia in northwest Florida are creating new breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Add to that, more people are outdoors repairing what the storm destroyed.

That come after weeks of mosquito mitigation work in Manatee and Sarasota counties with seven reported cases of malaria this summer in the two jurisdictions.

Officials with the Florida Mosquito Control Association announced the downgrade. Members said their work to curb the pest population was working. Crews had used larvacide, helicopter sprays, 16,000 mosquito fish and treatment along 600 miles of roads.

While residents, especially in Sarasota and Manatee counties, should remain cautious, officials said things were moving in the right direction.

“That’s great news for Sarasota, the whole state — and the residents of our two counties," Wade Brennan, director of the Sarasota County Mosquito Control District, said. "This doesn’t mean we’re out of the water. We want everyone to be very vigilant about stopping those mosquito bites — but it gives us good news.”

The association said efforts to tamp down the danger in impacted areas are already underway.

"When we know a hurricane is coming, we address that storm before and after it strikes by doing pretreatments then checking on our breeding sites after it's over," Sandra Fisher-Grainger, the FMCA president, said.

The concern is especially high in the more swampy and rural areas of the Big Bend, where Idalia was at its worst. Even so, a risk of illness exists wherever mosquitoes live, and officials will always recommend protection like CDC-approved bug spray.

Those interested in the latest Florida alerts and information on mosquito-related health concerns can check out the state's website, here.