SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - This year across the United States, there have been more than a dozen cases of a rare illness in humans that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It’s called Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
The virus can be deadly. It claimed its latest victim in Michigan.
Triple E has been detected in Chatham County as recently as late last year. Chatham County Mosquito Control has a unique way of detecting whether or not it is, in fact, in our county.
The first line of defense against Triple E are sentinel chickens.
“They’re kind of the red flag,” Chatham County Mosquito Control Director Ture Carlson said. “They tell us when stuff’s going on.”
The red flag is in the chicken’s blood, which is monitored weekly during the mosquito season. Carlson says they use chickens because the type of mosquito that carries Triple E is attracted to birds, and are difficult to catch in normal traps.
“It’s more of a hardwood swamp mosquito, so when we get out to the western part, that’s why we pout the chickens mainly out there; almost exclusively out there," Carlson said.
Carlson says they place the sentinel chickens in six locations in western Chatham County and wait for any signs of the virus.
“If we didn’t have the chickens, then it’s just kind of a shot in the dark because the mosquito is pretty elusive," Carlson said.
Once Triple E is detected, Chatham County Mosquito Control can focus spraying efforts in that area to help protect humans.