Monitoring Encephalitis Health Alert

Health officials are closely monitoring the situation, but how are they doing it?

The mosquito-borne disease may be rare, but Leon County health officials say encephalitis requires a watchful eye.

Dr. Marjorie Kirsch, Medical Director in Leon County, says, "We are paying attention to that and we want people to protect themselves. It is a serious illness and we just want to make sure people know about it and protect themselves."

Dr. Kirsch suggests residents reduce mosquitoes in their area by using insect repellent and draining any standing water.

Sentinel chickens are a key weapon in Leon County's fight against encephalitis.

Dr. Kirsch says, "These chickens actually have their blood drawn once a week to see if they've been exposed."

Members of the Leon County Mosquito Control say these chickens are the first line of defense against mosquito-borne diseases, and are a key indicator as to if a disease like encephalitis is in the area.

Richard Lobinske, Superintendent of Mosquito Control, says, "It's letting us know it's in the area, and we can also get an idea of how prevalent it is by how many birds we have or how commonly we're getting positives at a particular site."

Health officials say 35 percent of cases end in death, and some of those who survive end up with mild to severe brain damage.

The two most recent cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis locally are the second and third diagnosed in Florida this year.