A sentinel chicken in Hernando County has tested positive for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.

Officials said there have been no human cases reported in Hernando County. However, they urge residents to be aware that the virus is circulating in the area, and that as a result is it possible to become infected.

The risk for infection is highest for people who live in or visit wooded areas, people who work outside and people who participate in outdoor recreation.

The chicken is part of a flock located near State Road 50 and Ridge Manor Boulevard, near the landfill in Spring Hill. The county maintains similar flocks of chickens throughout the country to determine if they are carrying mosquito-borne viruses, which are not harmful to chickens but can be deadly to humans and horses.

Symptoms of EEE include a sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting.  The symptoms appear in humans four to 10 days after infected mosquito bites.

If you have recently been bitten by mosquitoes and are experiencing EEE symptoms, contact your medical provider immediately.

Officials said residents can reduce their chance of getting infected by doing the following:

  • Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus;
  • Wear clothes that cover the skin;
  • Make sure screens on doors and windows are secure and intact;
  • Get rid of standing water in flower pots, buckets, barrels and children's pools

Horse owners are encouraged to have their horses vaccinated every six months to protect them from EEE.