Chickens help fight West Nile

INDIO, Calif. - The West Nile virus is now  in the Coachella Valley and it's making people sick.  So far, two people have been hospitalized and are now recovering from the potentially deadly virus.  That number could be a lot higher if not for the help of chickens. 

"We have 10 different flocks of chickens and they are located throughout the Valley," said Coachella Valley vector ecologist Greg While. 

These Sentinel Chickens as they are known, sit all day and all night, just waiting to bitten by a West Nile carrying mosquito. 

"We take a blood sample from them about every two weeks and we look in that blood sample to see if they have an antibody to one of the viruses that we are interested in," explained White.

It's a process that works.  The latest round of test results show six of their chickens tested positive for the virus.

"In our Valley there are about 10 different kinds of mosquitoes, in the country there are about a hundred," said White. That's millions of mosquitoes that the Coachella Valley Vector Control tries to keep away from the public.  However getting rid of all them is nearly impossible. 

"It would be a very expensive, laborious process and I think if we if can just keep their populations down that will be sufficient," said White.

 Instead, Vector Control finds where the mosquitoes are and sprays pesticide.   

"We want to concentrate all of our mosquito control efforts to the areas we know are the biggest mosquito problems," said White.

That's where the chickens and mosquito traps come in.  Traps help identify where mosquitoes are concentrated, the chickens help identify areas the traps may miss. So, why chickens?

"The biggest reason is that they don't transmit the virus, so if they get an infection they don't make enough virus to where they will carry it to another mosquito.  They just make enough to make antibodies for us to detect," said White.

Once the chicken tests positive for West Nile, it's given away and replaced with a new one. 

"They are perfectly safe, they don't carry any virus or are harmful to people," said White.

The chickens often times end up with a local family to spend the rest of it's days laying eggs.

comments powered by Disqus

Photo Galleries

  • On this day: October 23
    IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation

    On this day: October 23

    The U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut are hit by a truck bomb, Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination is rejected, and the iPod is introduced, all on this day.

    Read More »
  • World's most empathetic countries
    Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

    World's most empathetic countries

    Michigan State University has put together a list of the most empathetic countries. Researchers interviewed more than 100,000 adults from 63 countries and found "higher empathy countries also have higher levels of collectivism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-esteem, emotionality, subjective well-being, and prosocial behavior." Find out the top 10 countries that made the list.

    Read More »
  • On this day: October 22
    Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

    On this day: October 22

    The first parachute jump takes place, "Pretty Boy" Floyd is gunned down, football meets television, and The Supremes top the charts, all on this day.

    Read More »
  • Everything you wanted to know about the Electoral College
    William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

    Everything you wanted to know about the Electoral College

    The person ahead in the popular vote might not actually win the presidency. Why? The Electoral College takes the final vote -- not us.

    Read More »
  • Best Clinton, Trump lines from Alfred E. Smith dinner

    Best Clinton, Trump lines from Alfred E. Smith dinner

      Less than a day after their heated final presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton traded shots at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner. Here's a look at the most memorable lines from the event.

    Read More »