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Pinellas mosquito control detects West Nile virus, targets Sawgrass Lake and Lake Maggiore

Male and female mosquitoes are separated during a test for West Nile virus. The virus was detected this week in two sentinel chickens in St. Petersburg and mosquito control officials are targeting the affected areas. [Times files | 2005]
Male and female mosquitoes are separated during a test for West Nile virus. The virus was detected this week in two sentinel chickens in St. Petersburg and mosquito control officials are targeting the affected areas. [Times files | 2005]
Published Sep. 29, 2017

Two sentinel chickens tested positive for the West Nile Virus in Pinellas County this week.

Pinellas County Mosquito Control confirmed the birds were located in the Sawgrass Lake and Lake Maggiore areas of St. Petersburg, and tested positive for the virus on Thursday. Technicians are treating the area by targeting adult mosquitoes and larvae by ground and air, according to a news release.

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The local mosquito control agency uses sentinel chickens to test for mosquito-borne illnesses. This system alerts mosquito control to the presence of disease early on, from West Nile to St. Louis Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Highlands J Virus. There are eight locations in the county where chickens are kept and tested weekly.

The West Nile Virus usually does not present symptoms in humans, but one in five people who are infected could develop a fever and other flu-like symptoms. The virus can cause encephalitis or meningitis in infected people. About one out of 150 infected people develop what could be a serious and sometimes fatal illness, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Like the Zika virus, the most common way to prevent contracting the illness is to use bug spray during mosquito season.

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Pinellas County residents are urged to stay indoors during peak hours of mosquito activity at dawn and dusk, use mosquito repellents and ensure all screens and seals are intact around windows and doors. Residents should also be diligent about removing standing water on their property to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

Residents can contact Pinellas County Mosquito Control at (727) 464-7503 for more information.