One of the county's sentinel chickens has tested positive for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus, prompting health officials to issue a cautionary advisory.
The infected chicken was found in the northwest corner of the county, off Zebrafinch Avenue, west of U.S. 19.
This means mosquitoes carrying the virus are present in the area.
The county maintains five flocks of chickens throughout the county that are tested periodically to determine if they are carrying a mosquito-borne virus. The viruses are not harmful to the chickens, but they can be deadly to humans and horses.
EEE is a rare disease that is caused by a virus spread by infected mosquitoes. It is a virus that can cause inflammation of the brain and is serious in humans.
No human cases have been reported in Hernando County but anyone in the area where the virus is circulating can get infected.
The risk for infection is highest for people who live in or visit woodland habitats, and people who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities.
Mosquito control staff is stepping up inspections and treatment in the northwestern part of the county, but all residents are reminded to be vigilant about mosquito bite prevention.
Here are some tips residents can take to protect themselves:
For more information, call Mosquito Control at (352) 540-6552 or the county health department at (352) 540-6802.