Suncoast officials on alert for signs of West Nile Virus

Suncoast officials on alert for signs of West Nile Virus

SARASOTA COUNTY – There are two confirmed human cases of the West Nile Virus out of Collier County, less than two hours south of the Suncoast, and one of those victims died.

Sarasota County had a chicken that tested positive back in June, and just last week three chickens tested positive for the virus in Manatee County. Should Suncoast residents be concerned?

Mosquito control officials say anytime there are confirmed human cases of the West Nile Virus, it’s an indication that it could be anywhere.

Eric Schreiber, director of Sarasota County Mosquito Management Services, says he’s not surprised by the recent outbreaks of West Nile in Florida. “This is the type of year that we start seeing cases in both our sentinel chicken flocks, and we do have human cases.”

Just last week, three chickens tested positive for the virus in Manatee County. “One in Duette, one in Duette Park, and one on State Road 64…Myakka Head.”

Mark Latham, director of the Manatee County Mosquito Control District, says that despite the positive tests, people should not be alarmed. “Three chickens means yes the virus is out there. But is there a lot of activity? Probably not.”

Officials monitor the mosquito population throughout the year. Helicopters are used to do aerial sprays and trucks to do ground sprays. Mosquito control also has chickens at various locations throughout the county that get tested once a week for any viruses that mosquitoes transmit. “7 or 8 years ago we were getting anywhere from 30-40 chickens per year testing positive, and yet we only had one case in the entire time we’ve been here,” says Latham.

They say to avoid the mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus, avoid being outside after dark. “The mosquito that’s involved in the transmission of West Nile, it’s one of the 46 species we have in Manatee County. And it tends to be a mosquito that doesn’t bite until the sun goes down.”

Officials say you should follow the five D’s:

–Dusk and Dawn: avoid being out at those times, when mosquitoes are the most active.
–Dress: wear clothing that covers your skin.
–Deet: use repellents that contain Deet.
–Drainage: check your home for any standing water; that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs.

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