TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Health officials are warning residents in Hillsborough County of an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity linked to the West Nile Virus.

According to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the virus was detected in two Sentinel Chickens, heightening the risk of transmission to humans.

According to Volusia.org, Sentinel chickens are used by mosquito control to check if mosquito-transmitted viruses are present in the population.

Since mosquitoes that transmit these viruses primarily feed on birds, the chickens are placed throughout the county and a small blood sample is taken each week to be tested for antibodies to West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis.

If a chicken has the antibodies, we know the virus is circulating in the mosquito population.

But don’t worry — Chickens do not become sick from these viruses because the viruses are unable to replicate inside them. Therefore, chickens cannot spread the virus to other mosquitoes.

The Department of Health reminds residents and visitors to take basic precautions to limit exposure.

To prevent mosquitoes from multiplying:

  • Drain standing water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
  • Discard old tires, bottles, pots, broken appliances, and other items not being used.
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least twice a week.
  • Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that do not accumulate water.
  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

To protect yourself:

  • Cover skin with clothing or repellent.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long sleeves.
  • Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.