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End of malaria alert for Sarasota County in sight

Written by on Saturday, July 29, 2023

It’s been one week without new cases, and if this remains the case for seven more, then the malaria alert for Sarasota County could be lifted by September 7th.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: July 28, 2023


Official Transcript

Host: It’s been a week without new cases and the malaria alert for Sarasota County could be lifted by September 7. Local officials are hopeful the county’s on the right track and optimistic enough to announce this during a joint media briefing yesterday with the Centers for Disease Control, otherwise known as CDC. Our news team has the details.

There has been a malaria alert for both Sarasota and Manatee counties since June 19 when a first case of locally acquired malaria became known. A total of seven cases, three of them among homeless people, have been reported since. This was the first occurrence of locally acquired malaria in the United States since 2003. All cases were in the north of the county at DeSoto acres and Kensington Park. All patients have been treated and recovered.

The CDC’s Audrey Leonard, Chief of the Entomology Branch, explained why they are optimistic and how the mosquito lifecycle determines the timing.

Audrey Leonard: I think every day that goes by without a new case is promising. Mosquitoes don’t live tremendously long time. So we have to think in terms of when a mosquito could have potentially bitten someone that had malaria and then how long it would take for that mosquito to die.

A typical mosquito will live maybe three weeks but they can live up to six or eight weeks. So, truly every day that goes by gets us closer to feeling confident that the transmission cycle has been interrupted.

Host: Jamie Carson, the county’s Communications Director, said the alert will not be suspended until after eight weeks without new cases. The last case was reported on July 13.

Jamie Carson: Because of the extended timeline for the parasite to move from humans to mosquito and back to humans, and mosquito borne illness alert will remain up until approximately eight weeks without any new cases. So if you’re tracking that our last positive case was July 13, we’re looking at potential eight weeks out, puts us at about this September 7 mark.

Host: Meanwhile, Sarasota County will continue battling mosquitoes by spraying pesticides from aircraft and trucks. The Mosquito Management Services Team is “working diligently and performing routine truck and aerial missions with a concentrated effort in obviously North Sarasota,” according to Carson.

The county began a massive spraying campaign to kill adult mosquitoes almost immediately after the first case was known without waiting for confirmation and additional cases, Carson said.

JC: It’s important to note that our local public health response and that our local Mosquito Management Services response happens immediately upon the potential of a suspect case. That we do not wait for it to be confirmed. So our response actions occur immediately upon there being a potential case.

Host: Asked about what pesticides the county uses, Carson did not dwell on the chemicals it applies, but pivoted to other methods.

JC: We’re using multiple forms of insecticide because of the fact that, you know, considering the type of mosquito, that they can become resilient to, continue to a certain brand. We’re using not only larvicides and adult spraying, but we’re also out there providing surveillance and field observations and utilizing mosquito fish as well.

Host: The three or four pesticide treatments per week have typically been announced the morning of the same day, which has been the subject of Facebook posts by residents who are concerned about their health and that of their children and pets.

Asked by WSLR, Mosquito Control Services said environmental and fiscal reasons make same day announcements unavoidable. “Sarasota County Mosquito Management determines treatments on a day-by-day basis to remain as environmentally and fiscally responsible as possible, and only trading when deemed necessary based on the most recent data. Due to this, notifications are therefore sent the same day with generally six hours or more of notice prior to the anticipated start of treatment.”

The county encourages residents to sign up for automated email and text alerts at www.alertsarasotacounty.com to be notified the same day of scheduled treatments.

At the press briefing, the CDC’s Leonard praised the county’s experience and actions.

AL: The authorities are using EPA-approved pesticides and they’re the pesticides that they use in their routine operations. And the CDC has been providing some technical guidance on spray operations. But it’s important to note that Sarasota County Mosquito Management has a vast amount of experience controlling mosquitoes, including the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, so they’re very well informed on how to best control these particular types of mosquitoes.

Host: Alert or not, the county encourages residents to prevent mosquito bites. Everyone is recommended to use mosquito repellent, avoid being outside at night and wear long sleeves and pants. Another way to battle malaria is to eliminate standing water in your backyard and put mosquito fish in your pond.

Sarasota County is hosting a public event Friday next week to inform residents about Sarasota County Mosquito Management services. Staffers will talk about how they work and answer questions. The August 4 event starts at 5:30pm at the Robert L Taylor Community Center in Newtown.

This was Johannes Werner for WSLR News.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm