Florida is under a malaria alert, and there are now more cases of the mosquito illness

Health officials have confirmed two new cases of malaria have been contracted in Southwest Florida as a statewide health advisory for the mosquito-borne illness remains in effect.

That brings the total to six cases since the first infection was reported in late May. All six cases were reported in Sarasota County, with the most recent two confirmed the week of June 25-July 1.

All of the locally contracted cases were Plasmodium vivax malaria. P. vivax is the most common type of malaria infection in humans. It is less fatal than other types but can still be life-threatening.

Health officials confirmed finding three mosquitoes carrying the parasite in Sarasota County in early June.

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Malaria is only transmitted via mosquito bite. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fever and chills. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical help within 24 hours of symptoms, health officials say.

Residents are urged to use bug spray, avoid areas with mosquitoes, and wear protective clothing outside.

Sarasota County government has posted on social media that mosquito spraying is happening near the coast in Venice and Englewood, between University Boulevard and 17th Street east of Interstate 75, and north Sarasota between Bahia Vista Street and Fruitville Road. Manatee County shared a map of where mosquito spraying regularly occurs.

Sarasota and Manatee counties remain under a malaria health alert that was issued on June 19. A statewide advisory was issued on June 26, when the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also issued an advisory.

No recent cases have been recorded in Miami-Dade, Broward or Monroe counties in South Florida.

Here are some tips from the state health department to reduce mosquito exposure.

Drain standing water

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots, or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has been collected.

  • Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.

  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week. Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.

  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and keep them appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Cover your skin

  • Clothing - Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.

  • Repellent - Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.

  • Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanoate, and IR3535 are effective.

  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

  • Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.

  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

Tips on mosquito repellent

  • Always read the label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.

  • To protect children, read the label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. Mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended for children younger than two months old.

  • Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.

  • Apply insect repellent that contains DEET (10–30%), picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanone, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.

  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin or onto clothing, but not under clothing. Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Do not apply permethrin directly to the skin. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions.