The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Alachua County (FDHAC) announced on Wednesday that two chickens in the county have tested positive for West Nile virus.
In a news release the department said the county has seen an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity and advised residents to take basic safety measures.
“Two chickens in our sentinel chicken flock have tested positive for West Nile Virus, and increased mosquito populations have been reported in the southwest part of Alachua County,” Anthony Dennis, the department’s environmental health director, said in a statement. “The risk of transmission to humans has increased.”
Most people who contract West Nile do not show any outward signs of infection, but it can cause neurological disease and death in humans, according to the World Health Organization. No human vaccine is currently available.
The health department listed the following steps to prevent infection:
- Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots, or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
- Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances, and other unused items.
- Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week.
- Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
- Maintain the water balance (pool chemistry) of swimming pools. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. Repair broken screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios.
- Those who must be outside when mosquitoes are active, should cover-up (wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long sleeves).
- Use netting to protect children younger than two months.
- Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house (repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios).
The health department said it continues to monitor illnesses statewide, including West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria and dengue.
The department also encouraged residents to report dead birds sightings through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website.
West Nile virus was first found in the United States in 1999—62 years after its initial discovery in Uganda. Since then, the virus has spread throughout the nation.
UF Health reports that the virus most likely spreads when a mosquito bites an infected bird before biting and transmitting the virus to a human.