Rejoice! We can hear your applause all the way to our office.
Chickens are completely safe to be around and consume and are not a threat from West Nile virus. And their eggs are safe as well.
Here’s how it works:
Chickens can get infected with West Nile virus, but they develop antibodies which fight the virus successfully. Some birds, like chickens, do not get ill or succumb to the virus while other birds, such as members of the Corvid family (crows, scrub jays, etc.), are devastated by the disease. Only Mother Nature knows why some birds are susceptible and others are not.
Our ecologists test the blood of our chickens (simple blood test) to determine areas where West Nile virus infection is occurring. Because the chickens are confined to a coop (unlike wild birds), we know infection is taking place at a specific location. For this reason, they are very helpful in our surveillance of mosquito-borne diseases (more than just West Nile virus) and this is why they are called sentinel chickens.
Not only do chickens serve as an early warning system for viruses, they and their eggs pose no risk to us. This makes them an important tool in our efforts to reduce the risk of mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.