U.S. health officials say West Nile on the rise

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SARASOTA COUNTY - U.S. health officials say West Nile virus cases are on the rise. The biggest spike in eight years. Sarasota County mosquito managers say a few of their testing chickens have tested positive since May. The believe the numbers are about average but are now expected to rise.

241 cases in human contraction and four deaths. Most in places like Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. "There is a heightened awareness. Locally we have our chickens out the first of May." Eight of County's 72 testing chickens have come up positive since then says Mosquito Control Manager Eric Schreiber. So far he is not concerned of a wide spread outbreak here. "When we have three or four in one location turning positive then we would go ahead and start spraying around that area."

The virus can cause some to come down with flu like symptoms. Potentially deadly for those with weakened immune systems such as the elderly or the very young. An infected mosquito can give it to a bird which when bit by other mosquitoes can infect them. Those mosquitoes can then bite and infect us. Taking time to ramp up. "We did have a huge amount of mosquitoes hatch off this past month. In fact is was about double the normal complaints during the month."

Manatee County has seen three positive results at their testing sites. One person in the state has contracted the virus so far this year. It happened in Duval County near Jacksonville.

While local testing shows West Nile is in the area the numbers remain low. However, that is likely about to change. Schreiber says historically our area sees a spike in positive reading in late July, August, and September. "Now that we have had water accumulation and getting the rains we should see gradual build up of those mosquitoes which can transmit it building up in the population."

Experts are unsure if the spike nationwide will trickle down to our typical heightened season. In the meantime they're doing what they can to reduce the chance. "We know it's out there. West Nile is out there. It's just a question of if it's going to spill over to the human population and that's what we are tasked to take care of."

Schreiber says the best way to protect yourself from bites in general is to follow the "Five D's." Avoid being outside during Dust and Dawn. Use repellents with Deet. Dress to cover skin and Drain standing water from around your home.