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Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 27, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

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

DHSS Commissioner Reminds Everyone to Protect Themselves Against West Nile Virus & Eastern Equine Encephalitis


TRENTON – New Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. is urging residents to take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves from West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) as summer and the peak infection transmission season begins. 

“Like last year, the heavy rain this spring created conditions conducive to breeding of mosquitoes which can transmit West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis,” said Dr. Lacy. “New Jersey's public health, health care, and mosquito control entities are well-prepared to combat mosquitoes and the infections they transmit. Adults should protect themselves and their children from these preventable illnesses," said Dr. Lacy.

Residents should clean or remove any items on their personal property that collect rain or sprinkler water such as clogged gutters, flowerpots, or old car tires which can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  New Jerseyans should change water in birdbaths at least once a week and repair damaged window and door screens as early in the mosquito season as possible.

Residents that have unwanted tires should contact their local public works or health departments, many of which offer assistance with proper disposal.


Insect repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) should be applied to clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions. Long sleeved shirts, socks and pants should be worn when outdoors.  Whenever possible, light colored clothing should be worn outside and outdoor activities should be limited at dawn, dusk and during the evening when mosquitoes are most active.

 “Although it is early in the season to have people ill with West Nile virus infection, we have already begun our testing of crows and mosquitoes for the presence of the virus in New Jersey,” said Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., State Epidemiologist and Senior Assistant Commissioner.

Dead birds may be a indication that these viruses are being transmitted between mosquitoes and birds in regions of the state.  By reporting dead birds to state and local health departments, residents play an important role in WNV and EEE monitoring.

WNV 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 46 states, Canada and the Cayman Islands. Nationally, more than 9,862 people were infected with WNV last season, including 264 deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   While the total number of human cases has more than doubled nationally in the last year, the total number of deaths has declined.

While WNV is more prevalent in New Jersey, human cases of EEE began to resurface last year in New Jersey for the first time since 1984 and have a higher fatality rate than WNV.  No New Jersey resident has tested positive for WNV or EEE so far this year. 

In New Jersey, 76 people have been infected with WNV and five people have died since 1999. Last season, 34 New Jersey residents contracted WNV, including a total of three West Nile virus-related deaths.  A total of three New Jersey residents tested positive for EEE last season and one died.

Both WNV and EEE are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has acquired up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Neither virus can be directly transmitted from birds to humans or from person to person. In the case of EEE, horses can also become infected and die. 

The CDC reports that, as of July 14, 2003, all blood banks throughout the country began screening blood donations for the presence of WNV.  Blood collection facilities have also adding screening questions to identify and exclude people who exhibit fever and headache in the week prior to donation.  The likelihood of spreading WNV through blood transfusion is low.

Most cases of WNV infection involve either no symptoms or mild, flu-like symptoms.  However, one out of 150 infected individuals will develop severe neurological disease, The elderly are at increased risk for severe disease.

Cases of EEE range from mild flu-like symptoms to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), coma, and death.  The CDC estimates the EEE fatality rate at 35 percent and that 35 percent of those who survive EEE will have mild to severe neurological deficits.

New Jersey's WNV and EEE 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 or Eastern Equine Encephalitis, visit the DHSS website at

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