MELBOURNE, Fla. -

Brevard County officials are urging people to take precautions to avoid mosquitoes after several chickens and one horse tested positive for the antibodies to West Nile virus.

"As of Monday, there have been several sentinel chickens testing positive for West Nile at four of our 11 sentinel sites", Don Walker, a county spokesman, said via email.

There has also been one horse case of West Nile virus confirmed, Walker said.

“While these numbers are not cause for alarm, it is prudent for citizens to take note and take preventative actions where appropriate,” his email said.

West Nile virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain. Most people can fend off the virus, but senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems are vulnerable.

Chickens carry the three viruses that cause encephalitis in humans but don’t get sick or die from them. So mosquito control officials draw blood weekly from sentinel chickens at about a dozen sites countywide to test for the antibodies to the viruses.

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or jwaymer@floridatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @JWayEnviro

Mosquito safety tips

  • Avoid exposure to mosquitoes. Stay indoors during peak biting times. If you must be outside during peak biting times, wear long sleeves and pants.
  • Wear mosquito repellents when outside during peak biting times. Use mosquito repellents containing the active ingredient DEET. Be sure to follow all application directions on the label.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from entering homes.
  • Remove unnecessary sources of water outside the home that may provide breeding places for mosquitoes.
  • Flush out the water in bird baths, flower pot overflow dishes, toys, and outdoor pet dishes every three to four days.
  • Remove leaf litter, standing water, and debris from roof gutters and boat covers.