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West Nile virus found for first time in Florida

Spread of the West Nile virus has been rapid along the Eastern Seaboard.
Spread of the West Nile virus has been rapid along the Eastern Seaboard.  


TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- State health officials announced Friday a dead crow tested positive for the sometimes-fatal West Nile virus, the first time the virus has ever been detected in the state.

Florida Department of Health spokesman Frank Penela told CNN that sentinel chickens were placed throughout the state since a case of the virus was reported recently in North Carolina.

A sentinel chicken is one that is placed in a cage in areas known to have heavy mosquito populations. The chicken is tested periodically for mosquito-borne diseases.

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"We were always concerned that the pattern was moving this way, and we've been working to try to prevent anything from happening here," Penela said.

No human cases have been reported in the state, but Florida Department of Health Secretary Robert Brooks warned residents to take precautions.

"We encourage the public to follow established preventive measures to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes," Brooks said in a statement.

He advised residents to "avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are likely to be looking for blood meals," wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, use mosquito repellent and get rid of standing or stagnant water near homes.

The West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in 1999 in New York City. Since then, 82 cases of the disease have been reported in humans in New York and New Jersey, with nine deaths.

Mosquitoes spread the virus by feeding on infected birds and then biting humans. The disease does not spread from person to person.

Penela said officials got the dead crow from Jefferson County, just east of Tallahassee, following the posting of signs several weeks ago asking people in the state to send dead birds to the health department for testing.

State health officials will meet Saturday to determine the state's response to the discovery of the virus.






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RELATED SITE:
• Florida Department of Health

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