Mosquito scare curtails outdoor activities in Florida

September 21, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. -- On one side of the football field, 26 people rooted for the De Laura Junior High School Scotties. On the other side, 150 fans cheered for the home team, the Edgewood Junior High Indians -- and 65 of them were in the school band.

The crowds were sparser than usual because many working parents could not make it to the game Thursday afternoon. Officials had moved the contest up an hour to avoid a mosquito that transmits St. Louis encephalitis, a viral infection that can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

The mosquito, Culex nigripalpus, has caused medical alerts that have reduced outdoor activities at night, the mosquito's preferred feeding time, in three central Florida counties, Brevard, Orange and Indian River, but only Brevard County has canceled night games.

In Orange County, attractions such as Walt Disney World are closing water parks and hotel pools earlier than usual.

The state sprays pesticides over mosquito-breeding areas, and residents and tourists spray themselves with insect repellents. No cases of the disease have been reported in humans.

In 1990, an outbreak of encephalitis resulted in 223 cases and 11 deaths in 28 counties in Florida, state health officials said. This year, officials who track the disease first spotted the virus in the -- state in June.

The main breeding season for the mosquito is June to November.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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