State Health Department officials issued an advisory this week that mosquitoes are still active across the state and tests from Black Hawk County have confirmed the dangers those mosquitoes pose.

Three state laboratories have confirmed encephalitis and West Nile virus in mosquitoes in the county. Black Hawk County environmental health program director, John McNamee, says the viruses were found in a flock of sentinel chickens.

The beauty of this is the chickens themselves do not get the disease, they don’t transmit the disease, but what they do do is create antibodies to the disease that we can find, so what we’re basically doing is seeing if there are mosquitoes in the area that are capable of transmitting any of these viruses,” McNamee says.The state has a dozen of so of the flocks of sentinel chickens. He says the discovery of the viruses in Black Hawk County does not mean they are widespread.

“We may have some here that are capable of transmitting encephalitis and you go one county or even a township over and there may be none there,” McNamee says. He says the chance of getting encephalitis from mosquitoes is rare even less if you take the right precautions.

The state health department says precautions include: use insect repellent; avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks whenever possible outdoors; eliminate standing water around the home because that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs.

Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers and pet water dishes. Change water in bird baths every three to four days. Iowa has had just one confirmed case of West Nile virus this year and no cases of encephalitis. For more information about West Nile virus, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health webpage.