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Hillsborough County, Florida -- A warning is out from the Department of Health about a viral mosquito-borne disease. Three Floridians who recently traveled to the Caribbean contracted Chikungunya fever. One of them is a woman from Hillsborough County.

Dr. Carlos Hernandes spends his days squashing any problems you may have with mosquitoes.

"We expect a very active season," says Dr. Hernandes.

He says 78 traps are set up all around the county, allowing officials to collect mosquitoes and examine them for any viruses like West Nile or Chikungunya.

He says sentinel chickens are the best way to know about any contamination.

"We work with the health department. We spray areas and we inspect to see if we can find more larvae and protect mosquito populations that way," says Dr. Hernandes.

Dr. Hernandes says that although they look for infected mosquitoes through these chickens and spray nightly, it's a fish that helps fight like no other.

"They're very voracious and have a great appetite," he says of Gambusia fish, which love nothing more than to snack on mosquito larvae.

Dr. Hernandes says the biggest mistake people make are leaving breeding habitats for mosquitoes in their back yard.

For ways to protect your yard and yourself:

  • Get rid of mosquito-breeding containers. Destroy or dispose of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools, or other containers that collect and hold water. Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns, or in pet dishes for more than two days.
  • Keep your rain gutters cleaned out. Rain gutters can get clogged with leaves and debris, which impede the flow of water. Not only is that bad for your roof, it creates an ideal habitat for mosquito larvae, which need water to grow into adults.
  • Make sure window and door screens are bug tight. Check your screens periodically to make sure there are no holes and replace worn-out screens.
  • Prevent puddles in your yard. Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to get rid of water from standing for several days.
  • Prevent your swimming pool from becoming a breeding ground. Cover your swimming pool when not in use. Make sure the cover doesn't sag and hold pools of rainwater, which can also provide a breeding ground. Another option is to stock the pool with fish, which will eat the mosquito larvae and prevent them from hatching off. Gambusias, or mosquito fish, are available to residents from Mosquito Control staff by calling 813-635-5400.

For more ways to protect yourself, visit http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/index.aspx?NID=615

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