Earlier this week, the Bay County Health Department issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory after several chickens tested positive for the West Nile Virus.
The chickens are part of the Health Department’s fight against diseases spread by the insects.

“This has been proven effective time and time again,” said Michael Riles, an entomologist for the Beach Mosquito Control District.

They’re called sentinel chickens and are tested every week for viruses.

“It’s important to have as many means as available that you can get to give you an idea of virus activity,” said James Clauson, the Director of the Mosquito Control.

Health officials use chickens for a variety of reasons but mostly because the virus doesn’t affect them.

“Sentinel chickens are one of the first lines of defenses that we as a public health organization here at Beach Mosquito Control District can utilize,” said Riles.

The District has three separate locations on the beach with six chickens each. This past week, eight chickens in two different locations tested positive for the West Nile Virus. It gave them the opportunity to react accordingly.

“Last night we sprayed by air with our helicopter,” said Clauson.

Mosquito Control wants people to understand this system and know they are constantly testing to keep the community safe.

“These chickens are our guards for the terms of West Nile Virus,” said Riles.

The Beach Mosquito Control District is one of two districts in the Panhandle to utilize the sentinel chickens. The other is South Walton Mosquito Control.