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Nassau County Health Department warns about mosquito-borne viruses

So far in 2019, seven sentinel chickens have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus in Nassau County and ten chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to a news release from the Nassau County Health Department. There has been an increase in sentinel chicken WNV activity throughout the county in recent weeks, coinciding with the peak period of WNV transmission in Florida from July through September.

The department urges residents and visitors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to take precautions to help limit exposure.

Throughout the year, the county health department partners with the Nassau County Volunteer Fire Department, Nassau County Commissioners and Amelia Island Mosquito Control District to maintain sentinel chicken flocks in the eastern, western, and middle sections of the county to monitor for West Nile virus and other similar mosquito borne illnesses. These chickens are regularly tested for four arboviruses that can affect humans and animals: Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), West Nile virus (WNV), Highlands J virus (HJV), and St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV).

Most human infections with EEEV, WNV, and SLEV are asymptomatic or may result in a nonspecific flu-like syndrome with fever and headache. Infection may, however, lead to encephalitis, with a fatal outcome or permanent neurologic sequelae. Fortunately, only a small proportion of infected people progress to having encephalitis. Exposure to HJV has not been associated with human illnesses.

To protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes, remember to “drain and cover”:

Drain standing water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected. Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used. Empty and clean birdbaths and pet's water bowls at least once or twice a week Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water. Maintain swimming pools and appropriately chlorinate them. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Cover skin with clothing or repellent. Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present. Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535 are effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old. Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house. Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than two months old. Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing. If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer’s directions.

The Department continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louisencephalitis, malaria, chikungunya and dengue.

Residents of Florida are encouraged to report dead birds via the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s site - http://legacy.myfwc.com/bird/default.asp.

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