With the chaos of 2020 and a rocky beginning of 2021, it would be easy to overlook something like the beginning of mosquito season, but this is the time of year that we at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District need to remind everybody: “Don’t let your guard down!”

Living in the near-tropics, we expect to see mosquitoes; however, there is a great deal we can do to protect ourselves and our community from mosquito-borne diseases.

Last year, on top of all the many concerns our community was facing, we saw nearly 70 cases of locally-acquired dengue fever in Key Largo, which is a disease spread by mosquitoes. There hasn’t been an outbreak of that size since 2010 in Key West.

The Mosquito Control District responded with all available resources, including door-to-door mosquito inspections, helicopter and airplane treatments, and truck treatments. Through perseverance and community support, we were able to break the transmission cycle in August 2020, while still in the midst of mosquito season. It truly takes an effort on all sides to make something like that happen.

The dengue outbreak of 2020 has taught us three valuable lessons:

1) These mosquito-borne diseases continue to rise throughout the world, and we will continue seeing introductions in South Florida.

2) We need to ensure that we have all of the tools necessary to combat these mosquitoes to prevent future outbreaks.

3) It takes full community cooperation and assistance by dumping all standing water around every home and business.

Let’s all do our part to prevent mosquito-borne diseases from becoming commonplace here in the Florida Keys. This is the best time of year to prepare and be proactive in preventing mosquitoes from growing on your property. Dump standing water, eliminate containers when possible, flush bromeliads, and wear repellent. We can all do this if we work together.

Andrea Leal is Executive Director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.