Deadly mosquito-borne illnesses detected in Central Florida

If you aren't ‘fighting the bite' yet, experts say it's time to start.

The Orange County Department of Health is warning residents that the Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus was detected in chickens in the county. 

According to the Florida Department of Health, Alachua County also detected the illness in chickens during their most recent round of testing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, or EEE, is a rare illness that infects the brain. 

Since 2009, only 13 cases have been reported in Florida and only 72 cases have been reported nationwide in humans.

When a person does contract the illness though, it's often deadly.

"A third of the individuals who contract EEE [die]," said Kent Donahue, public information officer for the Orange County Health Department. "It's a swelling of the brain."

Orange County also reports that West Nile Virus was detected in the chickens during this round of testing.

Donahue said the county, as well as others in Florida, place chickens throughout the area to detect these illnesses that originate in avian hosts. 

So far, EEE and West Nile have only come up this year in those chickens.

The concern is that it's prime time for it to spread from the birds to humans, thanks to a booming mosquito population. 

Mosquitoes bite the birds carrying the illnesses and then can transmit them to people.

Local mosquito experts at Mosquito Joe of Seminole County said Friday that populations have been exploding in recent weeks.

More mosquitoes means more chances to pass along these illnesses.

Donahue and the health department are encouraging people to ‘cover and drain' to lower the likelihood of spread. 

That means drain standing water in your yard after rainstorms to destroy mosquito breeding grounds. Also, cover yourself with long sleeves and pants, plus use bug spray with deet. Lastly, cover any openings around your home to keep mosquitoes out.