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Sarasota ranks high for West Nile

Charlotte Sun - 10/16/2017

Sarasota County ranks near the top in the state for sentinel chickens infected with West Nile Virus and other diseases this year, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Since January, 17 sentinel chickens tested positive for West Nile Virus, WNV, and three for Saint Louis encephalitis, SLE, in Sarasota County. That’s double from all of 2016 when eight chickens were infected with WNV and one case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus was reported. In 2015, there were two cases of WNV-infected chickens, according to the CDC.

Nearby Manatee County also had 17 sentinel chickens test positive for West Nile Virus and no cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus. Charlotte County more than tripled in diseased chickens so far this year — from one case of West Nile Virus in August to five by Oct. 7. At least two of the diseased sentinel chickens in Charlotte County were in the Englewood area. Last year, Charlotte County reported no cases and in 2015 only one chicken test positive for West Nile Virus.

So far this year, Sarasota and Manatee counties are just below Hillsborough County, which has 18 chickens infected with WNV and two with SLE. Walton County tops the report with 13 chickens infected with WNV, 21 chickens with EEEV and one with SLE. They are down from last year when 46 chickens were infected with West Nile Virus.

The Centers for Disease Control tracks sentinel chickens in each county, including those caged in neighborhoods in Englewood, Charlotte, North Port and Venice. The CDC produces an online weekly arbovirus surveillance report for the public to monitor for disease and health department warnings.

Chickens are used because they develop antibodies to West Nile and other viruses after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Public health officials know the deadly disease is in a vicinity because of the sentinel chickens’ response. A small blood sample is taken and tested. If a sentinel chicken tests positive, the mosquito control protocol is to spray the area, but it’s up to each district to treat for disease. Spraying helps to ensure that humans won’t become infected by the same pool of disease-?carrying mosquitoes that infected the chicken, according to the CDC. The infected birds aren’t returned to the flock.

In late June, the first case of a dead eagle was reported in Florida. It died of West Nile Virus in the Celery Fields, a rookery owned by Sarasota County, which has ?266 species of birds on 360 acres. Two other birds were reported dead in the county this year, according to the CDC. Sarasota County Mosquito Control didn’t do any additional spraying in the area after the eagle died. The county won’t place a sentinel chicken cage at the Celery Fields to monitor the health of other birds there.

“There are no plans to move any cages at the present time,” wrote Matt Smith, manager of Sarasota County Mosquito Control in an email to the Sun. “A mosquito must feed on an infected bird, then deposit eggs, and feed a second time to transmit the disease to the second host ... West Nile Virus vector species of mosquito are being targeted for surveillance and testing in areas of concern.”

Charlotte County already sprayed areas where the chickens tested positive for disease.

“The areas were targeted and treated,” said Scott Schermerhorn, Mosquito Control manager. “Crews have been and will continue to treat known breeding areas and any areas that they determine to be breeding.”

First case of locally transmitted Zika in the region

According to the report, the Sarasota, Charlotte, Manatee, Hillsborough and Lee counties are all under a public health emergency due to imported Zika virus infections. However, last week, a locally transmitted case of Zika was reported in Bradenton, making it the first of 2017, the Florida Department of Health reported.

The person had symptoms associated with Zika after returning from a trip to Cuba with a partner. Doctors learned the person infected while in Cuba was bitten by a mosquito in Manatee County. That mosquito then bit the person’s partner, according to the Florida Department of Health. In 2017, there have been 187 cases of Zika in Florida, with 154 of them being travel-related.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is concerned Zika cases will increase after Hurricane Irma impacted Florida and Hurricane Maria affected 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nelson said he doesn’t want to see a full-blown public health crisis hit Florida.

“The remnants of the storm have complicated relief efforts by making movement on the islands difficult and the standing water has raised concerns about the threat of increasing breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Nelson wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last week, Nelson, wrote to the Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the CDC, asking for additional funding.

“I remain concerned the increased rain and standing water from the hurricane will only increase the spread of Zika infections this year,” he wrote. “It has been more than a month since Hurricane Irma made landfall, and the CDC warned that mosquitoes capable of spreading the Zika virus may increase ‘two weeks to two months after a hurricane.’ The Zika outbreak isn’t over and continues to pose a serious public health threat to Floridians who are already struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.”

Email: eallen@sun-herald.com


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