Central Florida health authorities advise the public to take additional precautions against mosquitoes after detecting a potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus.
Several sentinel chickens have recently been tested for Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV)
"The risk of transmission to humans has increased," said the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. "DOH-Orange and mosquito control authorities will continue their monitoring and prevention efforts."
Orange County includes the cities of Orlando, Lake Buena Vista and Apopka.
EEEV is quite rare, with only three cases reported this year and only six last year. This is primarily due to the fact that the virus is transmitted to and in sparsely populated wetlands, according to the US Centers for the Control and Prevention of Diseases.
About one third of all people who suffer from EEEV, however, die and many of them who survive it remain behind with disabilities and progressive mental and physical conditions. This can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe mental retardation, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis and cranial nerve disorders, the CDC website states.
Symptoms include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, vomiting cyanosis, convulsions and coma.
As a precautionary measure, Sentinel chickens are placed in areas where outbreaks can occur and are regularly tested for the virus – as well as other mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile, to alert health authorities to their possible spread. This is due to the fact that a mosquito species known as the trigger of the virus transmission cycle (19459014) feeds almost exclusively on birds such as chickens (see CDC website).
This mosquito infects its bird hosts with the virus. Thereafter, other species of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the virus between birds and mammals, including the species Aedes, Coquillettidia and Culex, are transmitted from infected avian hosts to uninfected mammals such as humans and horses.
People who do not contract chickens for the disease, according to the website American Veterinarian and the Australian University of Melbourne, on which sentinel chickens are used in a similar way.
Health authorities advise to use insect repellents and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to help mosquitoes avoid bites. They also promote the release of stagnant water that can accumulate in flower pots, saucers, bottles, tires, buckets, and gutters to remove environments where the insects breed.
More than a week is enough for mosquitoes to multiply and multiply, "Florida's DOH-Orange warns in an infographic published on Twitter.
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