NOBLETON - A case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in a chicken in northeast Hernando County, officials announced Wednesday.
A sentinel chicken in a coop in Nobleton tested positive for the virus, according to the Hernando County Health Department.
The positive test indicates that mosquitoes carrying the virus are present in the area. There are five flocks of chickens placed throughout the county that are periodically tested for mosquito-borne viruses.
West Nile virus, which is spread by infected mosquitoes, is not harmful to chickens but can be deadly to humans and horses, especially since the virus can cause inflammation of the brain, according to the health department.
"It is important for residents to know that no human cases have been reported in Hernando County, but anyone in the area where the virus is circulating can get infected," according to a release from the Florida Department of Health. "The risk for infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities, because of greater exposure to potentially infected mosquitoes."
Symptoms of West Nile virus in humans appear four to 10 days after an infected mosquito bites and include sudden headache, high fever, chills and vomiting.
Those who have recently been bitten by mosquitoes and experience symptoms of West Nile virus are encouraged to contact their medical provider immediately.
Diagnosis is based on tests of blood or spinal fluid and there is no preventive vaccination for humans and no specific treatment for the virus.
Residents can reduce the chance of infection by using insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing.
"Consider wearing long sleeves and pants when weather permits, especially from dawn to dusk when many mosquitoes are most active," according to the release.
The department also recommends secure, intact screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out, and eliminating mosquito-breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels, and child wading pools.
Horse owners are encouraged to have their horses vaccinated every six months to protect them from getting the disease.
For health-related questions regarding the West Nile virus, contact the Department of Environmental Health office at (352) 540-6802 or go to www.cdc.gov.
For mosquito control issues contact the Mosquito Control Department at (352) 540-6552.