Pinellas County Mosquito Control confirmed positive results for St. Louis encephalitis in seven sentinel chickens last Wednesday. Four chickens were located at Walsingham Park in Seminole and three were in Cross Bayou in the unincorporated Seminole area.
Sentinel chickens serve as an early-warning detection system for some mosquito-borne diseases and can signal the fact that mosquitoes carrying the diseases are present in the area. There are eight locations in the county where chickens are kept and tested weekly.
Mosquito control technicians are aggressively treating known breeding areas by ground and by air, as well as responding to requests from residents. Additional fogging is ongoing in these areas.
St. Louis encephalitis differs from chikungunya, which is not detected in sentinel chickens but is also transmitted by mosquitoes. There have been three confirmed cases of chikungunya in Pinellas County this year. None of the cases were locally acquired, but which were imported from the Caribbean.
The public is urged to be diligent in ridding their properties of standing water to prevent mosquitoes breeding. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as one quarter inch of standing water, so residents are advised to take the following precautions:
• Empty water from old tires, flower pots, garbage can lids, recycling containers, boat tarps and buckets. Eliminate standing water near plumbing drains, air conditioner drips, septic tanks or rain gutters.
• Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly. Flush bromeliads twice weekly or treat with a biological larvicide.
• Change the water in outdoor pet dishes daily.
• Keep pools adequately chlorinated.
• Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating gambusia fish.
• Cover rain barrels with fine mesh screening.
• Repair rips or tears in door and window screens.
In addition, the Florida Department of Health advises residents to follow these preventive measures:
• Drain standing water around the home.
• Dress in light colors and wear loose fitting clothing that covers the arms and legs.
• Defend yourself by using mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin, in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
More information on controlling mosquitoes and a mosquito control request form can be found at the Pinellas County Mosquito Control website: www.pinellascounty.org/mosquito, or residents can call Pinellas County Mosquito Control at (727) 464-7503.