Chickens Will Herald West Nile Virus

Chickens Will Herald West Nile Virus


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Sam Penrod Reporting ...300 chickens set around the state will provide the earliest warning that mosquitoes are spreading the sometimes-deadly West Nile Virus.

West Nile Virus can cause serious health problems, especially in people over 50. It also seriously affects horse and birds, and that's why 300 chickens will be used to sound the alarm, if the virus arrives in Utah.

But why in this age of high tech monitors are chickens being used?

Sammie Dickson/Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement: "BIRDS NATURALLY HAVE DISEASES AND THE VIRUSES THAT MOSQUITOS PICK UP, WHAT WE TRY TO DO IS PUT CHICKENS OUT WHERE THEY ARE GOING TO BE BITTEN BY A LOT OF MOSQUITOS."

Each week, blood drawn from these chickens will be tested. The chickens will be monitored for any sign of West Nile Virus or strains of encephalitis.

Sammie Dickson/Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement: "THE CHICKENS HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN USED SINCE 1958, WHEN WE HAD AN OUTBREAK OF ENCEPHALITIS."

While most people consider mosquitoes as a nuisance, health officials warn the insects spread illness. Since the West Nile Virus was detected in Colorado last year, experts believe it will be detected in Utah this summer.

Dr. Joseph Minor: "WEST NILE VIRUS IN JUST THE LAST FOUR YEARS IS ANOTHER VIRUS SPREAD BY MOSQUITOS WHICH CAN BE LIFE THREATENING, ESPECIALLY IN SUSEPTABLE MIDDLE AGE PEOPLE."

West Nile Virus is spread to humans by mosquito bites, IF that mosquito is infected. Symptoms usually appear a week after being bitten, and include high fever, body aches and a rash.

Horses are also susceptible to West Nile Virus. Health officials are warning horse owners to have their animals vaccinated.

Dr. Joseph Minor: "WE HAVE A VACCINE FOR A HORSE ALREADY DEVELOPED AND ITS IMPORTANT HORSE OWNERS VACCINATE THEIR HORSES."

Experts say the best way to protect yourself and family from West Nile, is to use insect repellant, wear long sleeves in mosquito areas and don't leave standing water near your home because it will attract mosquitoes.

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