TARPON SPRINGS — Pinellas County Mosquito Control reported last Thursday that a sentinel chicken tested positive for East Equine Encephalitis.
Department officials received confirmation of the positive results the previous Tuesday from one chicken at Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg.
According to a county press release, sentinel chickens serve as an early warning detection system for mosquito-borne arboviral diseases and can signal the fact that mosquitoes carrying the diseases are present in the area.
Eight Pinellas County locations house chickens that are tested weekly.
This positive test on its own shouldn’t worry residents, the county reported.
“There is no cause for concern but we are reminded that the mosquitoes are still alive and well and we should take the regular precautions,” read a post on the Pinellas County Government Facebook page.
The Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus is transmitted to horses and humans by mosquitoes, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension web posting. Birds are the source of infection for mosquitoes.
While rarely seen in humans, the virus can cause headaches, fever, chills and vomiting. The UF Web posting, updated as recently as last March, cites more than 250 confirmed human cases of EEE in the United States since 1964.
While county officials said there is no cause for concern, Mosquito Control is advising residents to remain vigilant in efforts to limit the pest’s population. Even though it’s winter, recent rains have caused an increase in mosquito numbers.
Department officials could not be reached Monday about any potential precautions backyard chicken owners should take. The virus isn’t limited to chickens, though. It affects a variety of wild bird populations around the southeast and northeast United States.