Four chickens near Solvang have tested positive for West Nile virus, which could put humans at risk for the disease, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
The chickens are part of a “sentinel” flock monitored by the Mosquito and Vector Management District and are located at the Solvang Wastewater Treatment Plant.
According to county health officials, detection of West Nile virus in chickens means there is a risk of potential spread to humans via mosquitoes.
"We would encourage people in Solvang to wear insect repellent and check their properties for standing water," Solvang City Manager Brad Vidro said.
This is the first detection of West Nile virus this year in the county, according to the Public Health Department, which reported there have been no human cases this year.
Overall, county officials say activity levels of West Nile virus are down from the same time in 2016. To date, the Public Health Department reports, 211 human cases have been confirmed in 18 California counties. Eight of the cases were fatal.
The Mosquito and Vector Management District routinely tests birds, chickens and mosquitoes to detect the presence of West Nile virus.
Testing throughout the state has shown the virus is present in the bird populations of 37 counties, mosquito pools from 26 counties and chicken populations in 16 counties, according to county officials.
West Nile virus is passed primarily between birds by mosquito bites. Humans, horses and other animals can become infected with the virus if bitten by an infected mosquito. Human-to-human transmission does not occur.
County health officials warn that most humans who become infected with West Nile virus do not get sick.
Some will have very mild symptoms, such as fever, headache and body aches, which typically subside after a few days to weeks.
Those at risk for more serious illness include the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems.
The public is advised by county officials to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission: Avoid outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active, especially at dusk and dawn; when outdoors, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and use mosquito repellents; ensure that door and window screens are tight-fitting and in good repair; and eliminate standing and stagnant water to prevent mosquito breeding.
Vaccinations are available for horses from area veterinarians.
Statistics for California West Nile virus activity can be found online at www.westnile.ca.gov.
Questions for the Mosquito and Vector Management District should be directed to General Manager David Chang at 969-5050.