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Sentinel chickens test positive for equine encephalitis virus in Pasco County

The results prompted a health advisory.

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — There's been an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity in parts of Pasco County, and local leaders have issued a health advisory.

The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County announced Monday that several sentinel chickens, which serve as early indicators, had tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) infections.  

"As a result, the risk of transmission to humans has increased," the health department wrote. "Pasco County Mosquito Control District and DOH-Pasco continue surveillance and prevention efforts."

The county urged people to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Steps include draining standing water, covering skin with repellent or clothing, and covering doors and windows with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.

According to the CDC, EEEV infections can lead to neurologic disease or systemic febrile illness. Some people won't show symptoms, while others may develop serious neurologic symptoms.

"Approximately a third of all people with encephalitis due to EEEV infection die," the CDC wrote on its website. "...Of those who recover, many are left with physical or mental sequelae, which can range from mild brain dysfunction to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many patients with severe sequelae require long-term care and die within a few years."

There is currently no approved vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for EEEV infections in humans.

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