Tallahassee - The Florida Department of Health is urging Floridians and visitors to protect themselves against West Nile Virus. Yesterday the Department of Health confirmed the first case of West Nile virus illness in Florida for 2015 in an adult female resident of Walton County. West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that causes mild to severe illness, and there have been 38 other states with confirmed cases in 2015.
"I encourage Floridians and visitors to take steps to prevent mosquito bites that can lead to illness," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. "Stay safe by draining any standing water near or in your home, making sure that screens are intact, and keeping your skin covered with clothing and mosquito repellent."
Most people with West Nile virus infections, approximately 80 percent, have no symptoms. In those people who develop them, most experience a mild illness with conditions like headache, fever, pain and fatigue. These typically appear between two and 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
People over the age of 50 and individuals with weakened immune systems, especially transplant recipients and HIV-infected individuals, seem to be at increased risk for severe disease. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, and most mild infections are typically overcome with little or no medical intervention within a matter of weeks. Those experiencing severe side effects should seek medical attention immediately.
The department continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, Malaria and Dengue. Residents are encouraged to report dead birds to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website at www.myfwc.com/bird.
The department has put together broadcast-quality downloadable videos in both English and Spanish for use by the media on West Nile virus. You can find those at www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/west-nile-virus/index.html. There are also a number of educational materials, including a Frequently Asked Questions document and historical data on the illness. You'll also find basic information about the importance of taking precautions to avoid mosquito-borne illness in a press release put out by the department earlier this summer at www.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2015/06/061215-mosquito.html.