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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 11, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Commissioner Reminds Residents To Protect Themselves
Against Mosquito Bites and West Nile Virus


 

Of 119 crows tested so far this season by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, five crows in New Jersey found in Atlantic, Gloucester, Ocean (2) and Passaic Counties have tested positive for the presence of the West Nile virus, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today.

“The heavy rain we received this spring has created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes which can transmit the West Nile virus,” said Dr. Lacy. “New Jersey's healthcare community and mosquito control agencies are well-prepared to combat West Nile virus again this season. Now that summer has arrived, residents should protect themselves and their children from this mosquito-transmitted virus," said Dr. Lacy.

Residents should clean or remove any items on their personal property that can collect rain or sprinkler water and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, such as clogged gutters, flowerpots, or old car tires.  They should also completely change water in birdbaths at least once a week and should repair window and door screens.

People should also apply insect repellent to their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions, wear long sleeved shirts, weather-permitting, and pants when outdoors, and limit outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening.

These reminders will be repeated at movie theaters throughout New Jersey this summer. With funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has produced a public service message called “Stop West Nile Virus!” that will begin showing in nine counties in late July. The ads will continue through August.

 

The timing coincides with the expected peak transmission period for the virus, which runs from mid-July through September.  The advertisements can be seen in movie theaters in Atlantic, Bergen, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset counties.

 

No New Jersey resident has tested positive for West Nile virus so far this year. A total of 34 human samples have been tested and, of those, 13 have tested negative for the West Nile virus.

 

A total of 2,490 mosquito pools have been tested and, of those, one in Monmouth County tested positive.

 

Twenty-five New Jersey residents contracted West Nile virus last summer, twice as many as in 2001.

 

“We are fast approaching the peak risk season for being infected with West Nile virus,” said Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner.  “Crows are the canaries of West Nile virus infection. When crows test positive for the West Nile virus, that is a sure sign that the virus is circulating in the community.’’

 

                West Nile virus has been present in the United States, including New Jersey, since 1999. In the five years since the virus first emerged, the disease has spread to 44 states, Canada and the Cayman Islands. Nationally, more than 4100 people were infected with the virus last summer, including 284 deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

In New Jersey, 43 people have been infected with West Nile virus and two people have died since 1999.

 

The West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. It is not directly transmitted from birds to humans or from person to person. It can, however, be transmitted by blood transfusion or organ transplantation from an infected individual.

 

On July 1, 2003, New Jersey began screening donated blood for the presence of West Nile Virus. Blood collection facilities are also adding screening questions to identify and exclude people who exhibit fever and headache in the week prior to donation.  Only 30 blood banks in the U.S. are capable of conducting this testing, two of which serve New Jersey: the American Red Cross/Penn Jersey Blood Bank in Philadelphia and New Jersey Blood Services in New Brunswick. The likelihood of spreading West Nile virus through blood transfusion is low.

Most cases of West Nile virus infection involve either no symptoms or mild, flu-like symptoms; however, 1 in 150 infections is associated with severe neurological disease and the elderly are at increased risk for severe disease.

                New Jersey's West Nile virus surveillance, control and prevention activities involve the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These include DHSS, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the CDC, the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Mosquito Research and Control Unit, and local health and mosquito control agencies.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the DHSS website at www.state.nj.us/health.

 

 

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