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California chickens used to fight West Nile virus

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- Health officials in San Bernardino County are enlisting chickens to provide an early warning for West Nile virus, which is commonly spread by mosquitoes.

The San Bernardino Sun reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1sS8Ka1 ) that the Department of Public Health regularly tests White Leghorn hens.

When one of 10 chickens becomes infected, officials will move into the area, looking to shut down water sources where the infected mosquitoes are breeding.

Officials say the chickens allow the department to allocate resources more efficiently.

Unlike the canaries used in the past by miners to detect deadly gases, these birds won't die in the course of their service.

Ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito, chickens produce antibodies to the virus, a marker that proves the virus is present.

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Information from: The Sun, http://www.sbsun.com

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