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Increased West Nile virus activity has been reported in Sarasota County

Purdue University

The virus has shown up in Sentinel chickens near North Port.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County is reporting an increase in West Nile virus activity in some parts of that area.

The health department says Sentinel chickens tested positive for West Nile near North Port. No human cases have been reported.

Christina Ferracci, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, said it's normal this time of year to see an increase in mosquito-borne diseases.

"There's standing water and that attracts mosquitoes," Ferracci said. "So, anytime we're in a season where the mosquitoes are out, and they’re breeding, we do see increases in diseases such as these."

West Nile virus affects the central nervous system and can cause serious illness. However, about 80% of people who become infected with the virus will not show symptoms.

The virus is always around, but shows up frequently in the chickens during hurricane season.

To protect against the virus, Ferracci recommends residents practice "drain and cover.”

"Removing sources of standing water draining and covering things that collect water around the household are going to be the most important things to prevent diseases like West Nile,” Ferracci said.

She also recommends covering exposed skin and using mosquito repellant.

For more information on "Drain and Cover," including what insect repellents to use, visit the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County website.

Residents, visitors and medical professionals with general questions about West Nile are asked to call the Epidemiology department at (941) 861-2873.

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Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.