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Health Officials Urge Greater Protection From Virus-Carrying Mosquitoes

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Closer view of an Aedes Aegypti mosquito (dengue fer vector) inside a house in Santa Barbara neighborhood north outskirst Guatemala city on July 11, 2013. Guatemalan government keep a strategic plan for the prevention and control of dengue. AFP PHOTO/Johan ORDONEZ (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Closer view of an Aedes Aegypti mosquito (dengue fer vector) inside a house in Santa Barbara neighborhood north outskirst Guatemala city on July 11, 2013. Guatemalan government keep a strategic plan for the prevention and control of dengue. AFP PHOTO/Johan ORDONEZ (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — The mosquito season is in kicking into high gear in Florida and state health officials are warning residents to protect themselves.

The biting bugs can carry debilitating diseases and pose an elevated threat to public health during the state’s rainy season.

Officials are urging people to drain water from their garbage cans and gutters and cover their skin by wearing shoes, socks and long pants. Mosquito repellent is also encouraged.

Health officials say residents of Pinellas County should be aware of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, which has made its way to the Caribbean from Africa, Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean. They say travelers to those regions could carry the virus back to the United States and infect local mosquito populations.

The Florida Department of Public Health has confirmed at least 18 cases of imported chikungunya in the state.

Officials ask residents to assist them by helping to remove standing water from around their homes.

Drain and cover:

Drain all standing water around the yard because mosquitoes need only a small amount of water to breed.

Empty cans, buckets, garbage cans, house gutters, flower pots, bottles, toys, plastic “kiddie” pools, lids, old tires, pool covers, barrels and any other container or item that holds water.

If you have a boat, turn it upside down if it’s small enough, or cover it if it’s too large to turn.  Just make sure the boat cover doesn’t also hold water.

If you have a swimming pool, make sure to maintain it properly and run the pump every so often as mosquitoes do not like to breed in moving water.

Twice a week, make sure to empty or rinse out plants that hold water (such as bromeliads), pets’ water bowls and birdbaths.

Make sure your doors and windows are covered with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.

Protect infants with mosquito netting.

Avoid going outside when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk.

If you do have to be outside, cover yourself up by wearing loose, light-colored clothing (preferably long pants and long sleeves), shoes and socks.

Use a repellent when you go outside.  Follow the directions on the label.

The best repellents use DEET or picaridin.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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