Indio, Calif - Three sentinel chickens in Eastern Coachella Valley have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Two of the sentinel chickens which tested positive were from a flock situated near Highway 111 and State Park Road, just north of the Salton Sea. The other sentinel chicken found positive for the virus was from a flock west of the Salton Sea, near 81st Avenue and Highway 86.
Blood samples from the sentinel chickens were taken August 4 and tested in a California Department of Public Health lab. These are the first sentinel chickens to test positive for the virus this year in the Coachella Valley and the first sign of the virus west of the Salton Sea.
Eight mosquito samples tested positive for the virus in July. "The Coachella Valley has been fortunate this year because West Nile virus showed up a little later than usual," says District Vector Ecologist, Gregory S. White, PhD. "But now that we are detecting the virus in our sentinel chicken flocks west of the sea, we know the virus is spreading and we encourage people to protect themselves from potentially infected mosquitoes."
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals, including sentinel chickens, through the bite of an infected mosquito. Vector Control keeps sentinel chicken coops across the Valley to help detect the presence, intensity, and duration of transmission of mosquito-borne diseases in the area.
Sentinel chickens do not get sick and are not capable of transmitting the virus to other mosquitoes. Mosquitoes acquire West Nile virus by feeding on infected birds. Most individuals infected with West Nile virus will not experience any illness. Others will have mild symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body aches. However, young children, the elderly, or individuals with lowered immune systems are at greater risk of experiencing more severe symptoms when infected. Anyone with symptoms should contact their health care provider.
So far in California, 57 people from 13 counties have tested positive for the virus this year. Four people have died. There have been no human cases detected in Riverside County in 2014.