(AP Photo)

The first case of West Nile this year has been found in a sentinel chicken.

The discovery came from a sample taken by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) on July 19, 2021, at a sentinel chicken station in northern New Castle County. DNREC operates 20 such monitoring stations statewide, wherein weekly blood samples are taken.

Sentinel chickens bitten by mosquitoes carrying either West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) develop antibodies to the diseases, but are otherwise unaffected.

But the diseases can be fatal in horses, so you're urged to contact the state veterinarian to get horses vaccinated. Neither disease has a specific drug treatment, and infections in horses are fatal in 70 to 90% of EEE cases and in 30% of WNV cases.

There have been no reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans this year in the state, however, Delawareans are reminded that the possibility of contracting mosquito-transmitted diseases will continue until colder autumn temperatures in mid-October or later.

Only about 20% of people who contract West Nile Virus develop a mild illness, which may include fever, body and muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting and rash symptoms. A small number of people can develop serious illness involving neurological problems, paralysis and possibly death. EEE is not as prevalent as WNV, but can present more severe symptoms in humans and horses. 

DNREC reminds the public to take common-sense precautions to avoid mosquito bites, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors in mosquito-prone areas, applying insect repellent containing 10 to 30% diethyl toluamide (DEET) in accordance with label instructions and avoiding mosquito-infested areas and times of peak mosquito activity around dusk, dawn and at night.