Officials warn of threat of West Nile virus
By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - The social season is ramping up, but so is mosquito season.
On Sept. 27, the Indian River County Health Department and the Indian River Mosquito Control District issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory for West Nile virus, based on infected sentinel chickens.
Since that advisory, two more chickens have tested positive for the virus, further illustrating the need for county residents to be cautious and take preventative measures against being bitten by mosquitos, said Don Shroyer, mosquito-borne diseases and surveillance director.
No human West Nile virus cases have been documented this year in Indian River County and there hasn't been a case since 2001, health officials said.
The Mosquito Control District oversees and tries to control the mosquito population within Indian River County, and also monitors mosquito-borne diseases that could potentially impact humans and livestock.
In an average year, the district will record about five chickens that have tested positive for West Nile, Mr. Shroyer said.
"With these two, we now have 14 positive for the year," Mr. Shroyer said.
That number is well above the norm, so both the district and the health department encourage residents to be diligent about applying mosquito repellant with DEET when going outdoors, and to try and avoid spending time outside during the dawn and dusk hours when some mosquitos prefer to feed.
The eight sentinel chicken flocks monitored by the district are scattered around the county. Six of the flocks have infected chickens, Mr. Shroyer said.
"After Tropical Storm Isaac, well, it's just been wet ever since and we've seen an increase in the infected mosquitos," he said.
Measures residents can take to lessen the amount of mosquitos near their homes are to drain standing water from containers such as buckets, flower pots or old tires in the yard. Covering doors and windows with screens is another effective way of keeping mosquitos out of the house.
There are about 50 different species of mosquito in Indian River County, but not all of them bite humans or carry disease, Mr. Shroyer said.
For more information about the Indian River Mosquito Control District, visit www.irmosquito.com.
For the most up-to-date health alerts, visit www.myirchd.org.