The Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) announced Feb. 18 that the first cases of West Nile virus (WNV) for this year have been reported. It has been confirmed that a wild turkey in Calhoun County, a hawk in Alachua County, one sentinel chicken in Volusia County, and three horses in Marion County have tested positive for WNV.

According to DOH Secretary John O. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., it is not necessary to place any counties under a (human) medical alert at this time: “While the chance of humans contracting WNV is currently low, people in areas with high concentrations of mosquitoes still need to take precautions against mosquito bites.”

FDACS Commissioner Charles Bronson agreed: “Many areas in Florida stay warm year-round, so it’s a good idea to eliminate any mosquito-breeding sites around your home. Also, horses should always be vaccinated against WNV (and eastern equine encephalitis virus) by a licensed veterinarian.”

Additionally, since last year was the first time that WNV had been found in the state, officials encourage anyone who discovers a dead bird to report it via the internet. The reporting system is located on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s web site at:

If people do not have access to the internet, they may report dead birds at 1-800-871-9703. A total of 12 human WNV cases were reported to the State Health Office during 2001. The number of dead birds that were found with WNV in Florida was over 1,000, along with close to 200 sentinel chickens testing positive for the disease. FDACS reports over 400 horses in the state contracted WNV.

“Due to the heavy load of WNV in the environment and our inexperience with both this new emerging disease and the new vaccine just rele