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Chickens set for mosquito control duty; 50 to be deployed throughout St. Lucie County

Will help detect mosquito-borne illness
Posted: 5:36 PM, Jun 08, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-09 18:52:43Z

50 chickens squawk in their coop outside the St. Lucie County Mosquito Control District office in Fort Pierce.

They are sentinel chickens, used as early warning detectors for mosquito-borne illnesses.  Starting Thursday, they’ll be spread out around the county.

“We’re able to draw their blood once a week and determine if there’s mosquito disease present," said Glenn Henderson with St. Lucie County Mosquito Control. Diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, and west Nile.

The chickens will not be able to detect the Zika virus because the mosquito that carries the Zika virus does not feed on chickens. There’s been only one confirmed case of Zika so far between Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties.  Palm Beach County has had eight cases so far.

“We’re very concerned about Zika.  We know that it can arrive at anytime and we’re doing everything we can to prevent it.  But at the same time, we can’t forget that we have other diseases that are out there," said Henderson.

The Florida Department of Health is reminding everyone that in the wake of Tropical Storm Colin, to "drain and cover;” eliminate places where standing water can accumulate.

“All it takes is a bottle cap of water to grow mosquito larvae," said Henderson.

Story updated to reflect that Sentinel chickens are not used to monitor Zika because the mosquito that carries the Zika virus does not feed on chickens, according to the Florida Department of Health.