Sumter County using chickens to survey mosquito-transmitted diseases

Chickens act as a ‘dead-end host’ for viruses, according to experts

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. – Sumter County is working with mosquito-management workers to survey mosquito-transmitted diseases in the county — through the use of chickens.

A Sentinel Chicken at the Fairgrounds in Bushnell recently tested positive for West Nile Virus, a disease that is passed through mosquito bites, county officials said.

[TRENDING: Win tickets to watch Artemis 1 rocket launch | Everything you need to know for Florida primary day | Video of man stabbing shark in head in New Smyrna stuns some. Here’s why it’s legal in Florida | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

However, experts from the Vector Disease Control International — a mosquito control company working with Sumter County — said that Sentinel Chickens are a great way to survey those types of diseases.

“Since chickens do not amplify the virus, they cannot infect other mosquitoes. We call this a dead-end host,” VDCI Regional Director Dr. Caroline Efstathion said. “So chickens are not adversely affected by these mosquito arboviruses. People with backyard chickens do not need to worry about them getting sick. Using sentinel chickens gives us a warning that the disease is present in the local mosquito population and allows us to take enhanced efforts to reduce the adult mosquito numbers.”

Sumter County told News 6 that small flocks of chickens have been stationed in different areas to help track mosquito-borne viruses across the county.

According to Sumter County, these flocks are used to attract mosquitoes and figure out whether mosquito populations are carrying dangerous diseases, such as the West Nile Virus. If such a disease is found in a chicken, officials said they can notify area residents to be careful.

County officials said the sampled area in Bushnell will see increased inspections, sampling and control efforts by mosquito control workers following the positive chicken test. Residents in the area will also be notified that there is a greater risk of infection in their neighborhoods, officials added.

Officials recommended that residents use personal protection and yard sanitation to keep mosquito populations under control. Officials said that residents should drain any standing water around their home and cover as much of their skin as possible while using mosquito repellent.

Chickens infected with viruses via mosquito bites do not suffer symptoms associated with the diseases, according to Sumter County officials.

Sumter County residents may also sign up to receive notices when mosquito spraying happens in their area.

To sign up, visit the county’s website here.

Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:

About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined in April 2022.