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Pinellas Sentinel Chicken Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

Mosquitoes | Mosquito | Mosquito Control

West Nile is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people will show no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

PINELLAS COUNTY – The county’s mosquito control department has confirmed that a sentinel chicken tested positive for West Nile virus on Wednesday (July 8). The chicken was located on the grounds of the county’s Keller Water Treatment Facility in Tarpon Springs.

This is the first positive test of the year in Pinellas for a mosquito-borne virus, according to county officials.

West Nile is most commonly transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals.

Most people develop no symptoms, the CDC says. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues), according to the CDC. The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis. Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection because of West Nile virus will die.

Sentinel chickens serve as an early-warning detection system for some mosquito-borne diseases and can signal the fact that mosquitoes carrying the diseases are present in the area. There are eight locations in Pinellas County where chickens are kept and tested weekly. County officials say mosquito control technicians are aggressively treating known breeding areas by ground and by air, as well as responding to requests from residents. Additional fogging and treatment efforts are ongoing in the area where the positive sentinel chicken was located.

With the rainy season underway in Pinellas, the county is urging residents to be diligent in ridding their properties of standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as one quarter inch of standing water, so the following precautions are advised:

•    Empty water from old tires, flower pots, garbage can lids, recycling containers, boat tarps and buckets
•    Eliminate standing water near plumbing drains, air conditioner drips, septic tanks or rain gutters
•    Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly
•    Flush bromeliads twice weekly or treat with a biological larvicide
•    Change the water in outdoor pet dishes daily
•    Keep pools adequately chlorinated
•    Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating gambusia fish
•    Cover rain barrels with fine mesh screening
•    Repair rips or tears in door and window screens

In addition, the Florida Department of Health advises residents to follow “drain and cover” preventive measures by draining standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying as well as covering skin with clothing and using mosquito repellent.

To request mosquito control, call Pinellas mosquito control at (727) 464-7503 or go to For other related information, see For information about West Nile virus, go to

Pinellas County | West Nile Virus | Sentinel Chicken | Tarpon Springs

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