With New Jersey experiencing a hot and wet summer, Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred J. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., reminds residents to continue to be vigilant in preventing West Nile virus (WNV).
“The heat and the rain have created a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes in New Jersey,” said Commissioner Jacobs. “Even though we haven’t had a human case in our state this year, we are well into the peak season for mosquito bites, which runs from mid-July through September. Residents should continue to protect themselves and their children from this and other mosquito-transmitted viruses.”
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 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 and pants, weather permitting, when outdoors, and limit outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening.
As of August 17th, 2,674 mosquito pools have been tested with 75 showing positive results for WNV. The 75 positive pools were reported in Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Passaic.
In addition, four Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE) positive mosquito pools have been identified in New Jersey this year, one each in Cape May and Monmouth counties and two in Burlington County.
Also, 17 counties have submitted 124 birds for WNV testing with seven positive results. The positive birds were found in Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Hunterdon, Ocean and Union counties.
There have been 77 human cases of West Nile virus in New Jersey since 1999, when the virus first appeared in the United States. Five of these cases were fatal. Last year, one human case was reported in New Jersey.
“We are at the peak risk season for being infected with West Nile virus,” said Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist. “Although there have been very few human cases of West Nile virus in last few years, it is still important to be vigilant in protecting oneself from mosquito-borne diseases.”
The West Nile virus, an arboviral disease, is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. WNV is not directly transmitted from birds to humans.
About one in 150 persons, or less than one percent of those infected with West Nile virus, will develop a more severe form of the disease. Symptoms of the more severe disease include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. The elderly are at higher risk of more severe disease.
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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, 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.nj.gov/health.