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Most People With Zika Don't Show Symptoms; How Jacksonville Residents Can Prevent Virus

Bel Fegore via Flickr

Northeast Florida homeowners can help keep away the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. That’s what Duval County Health Department Director Kelli Wells told Jacksonville City Councilors Tuesday.

She says the tiny, flying insects tend to lay their eggs in relatively clean, small quantities of water.

“This mosquito loves the dishes underneath your flowerpots, water collected in boat tarps in your yard, children’s toys that are out on the patio or the backyard that collect small amounts of water. They don’t like water that has a lot of detritus or decaying material in it,” she said.

That means retention ponds and wetlands are not as much of an issue, she says. And people can help by keeping watch and frequently emptying those small-time offenders.  

Eighty percent of people who have the Zika virus don’t realize it because they don’t show symptoms, Wells said. Although the only known cases of mosquito-to-human Zika transmission in Florida have happened in a small area of Miami, she called the follow-up investigation into the Miami cases “worrisome.”

“We’ve now found a few folks who are positive with Zika who didn’t have symptoms as a result of the contact investigation, so that is a real concern and one that we’ll be talking through a bit in our taskforce meetings,” she said.

She says the county is testing people who travel to areas known to have Zika—but only when they show symptoms.

Duval County OB/GYN doctors are also being urged to screen pregnant women who travel to areas known to have Zika-carrying mosquitoes, including Midtown Miami.

And Wells says health workers are being trained to conduct door-to-door investigations, in case they believe Zika has arrived in Duval County.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP