PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The phone lines are ringing off the hook at Broward mosquito control headquarters, where officials are monitoring both the number of complaints and the number and type of mosquitoes found in traps.
“On both of those they are flashing red right now, meaning the population is really high and they’re actually biting a lot of our residents right now,” said Ahn Ton of Broward mosquito control.
Weeks of heavy rainfall in South Florida have created a breeding ground for the pesky, disease-spreading insects. The department of health announced Thursday that two more Miami-Dade County residents have been infected with West Nile virus, bringing the county’s total to four.
There are currently no reported cases of infection in Broward, but a big concern is the presence of the mosquitoes that carry West Nile and Dengue fever.
“It’s a problem when we have encephalitis, which is a swelling of the brain,” said Dr. Isik Unlu of Miami-Dade mosquito control. “That’s the part that is scary.”
Said Ton: “The type of mosquito that carries that type of virus is prevalent in our area and already we’re seeing them popping up around our area.”
There is no evidence that suggests mosquitoes could spread COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, as coronavirus is a respiratory virus that spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose, not blood.
Most of Broward’s mosquito calls are coming from Pembroke Pines, Sunrise and Miramar, but many other areas are affected, leading to a tenfold increase across the county.
“Right now, on average, we’re getting about 300-400 requests a day,” Ton said. “During the slow season, just to put it in perspective, just a couple of months ago we were getting 20-30 requests a day.”
With more than 250 calls a day, Miami-Dade’s mosquito control teams are also out in force, working to kill larvae before they hatch.
“And then he will report if he sees adult mosquitoes and another crew will go out at night to do adulticiding around that neighborhood,” Unlu said.
Adulticiding is the term used for killing adult mosquitoes.
Officials say people need to take measures to protect themselves by getting rid of standing water and avoiding the outdoors during peak hours from sunrise to sunset. If you must be outside, wear protective clothing and use mosquito repellent.