St. Lucie County Mosquito Control has spread fifty “sentinel” chickens in coops across the county to help with the early detection of mosquito-born illnesses. Once a week control officers will test the chickens’ blood for illnesses like Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and West Nile virus. St. Lucie County is not alone; many counties across the state rely on sentinel chickens to monitor mosquito-born illnesses. Unfortunately, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus does not feed on chickens, so they will not be able to help give an early warning of the spread of that virus. Chickens are able to develop viral antibodies much like people do, but the chickens are not carriers and thus not a part of the viruses’ cycle. Because the chickens will have the viral antibodies for the rest of their lives, they are no longer effective sentinels for a virus once they test positive for its antibodies.
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