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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   May 20, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160

Tests Confirm West Nile Virus in Five Crows

TRENTON - Of more than three dozen birds tested so far this season by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, five crows found in Monmouth (4) and Morris (1) Counties have tested positive for the presence of the West Nile virus, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today.

"New Jersey's healthcare community and mosquito control agencies are well-prepared to combat West Nile virus again this season but, now that the weather is getting nicer and we are all spending more and more time outdoors, residents, too, need to be proactive to protect themselves and their children from this mosquito-transmitted virus," said Dr. Lacy.

Among the personal precautions residents should take is cleaning up any items on their personal property that can collect rain or sprinkler water and serve as an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes, such as clogged gutters, flowerpots, or old car tires. If you have a birdbath, make sure you change the water completely at least once a week. People should also repair window and door screens.

Dr. Lacy said that from now until the end of mosquito season - which lasts until the first frost in late fall or early winter - residents should also consider spraying insect repellent on their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions, wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, or curbing outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening.

West Nile virus (WNV), 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 or horses to humans, from horse to horse, or from person to person. In people, West Nile generally causes no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms; however, the elderly are at higher risk of more severe disease. Similarly, infected horses may not show any symptoms of the disease. When they do appear, symptoms may include the animal being "off his feed," or exhibiting neurological abnormalities.

In 2001, lab testing confirmed WNV infection in 12 New Jersey residents, including one fatality. The virus was also detected in mosquitoes, horses, or crows and other birds in every county last year. The virus was detected for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in September 1999, in birds found in New York City and Westchester County.

New Jersey's efforts to combat WNV have been led by the Department of Health and Senior Services working with the departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, state and county mosquito control commissions, Rutgers University, and local health officials. Prevention activities have included comprehensive, year-round mosquito control, and seasonal human, animal and mosquito surveillance and testing, so those working to control the virus can more effectively determine its intensity, geographic spread and impact.

System enhancements implemented this year include a statewide courier service to help local agencies deliver bird and mosquito samples to the state lab for testing and a web-based geographic information system (GIS) prototype to provide timelier and geographically accurate information on where samples have been found so that mosquito control agencies can more effectively respond upon learning of a WNV-positive bird or mosquito in their jurisdiction.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a nationally renowned biological Mosquito Control Program that uses mosquito-eating fish to control the spread of the virus in the mosquito population. As of May, a quarter million mosquito eating fish have been stocked in more than a dozen counties throughout New Jersey. Further, the DEP has donated 40,000 of the state's homegrown mosquito eating fish to Rockland County Health Department in New York.

The DEP continues to work with local governments to assist in the clean up of abandoned tire piles throughout the state. Abandoned tires can collect water pools and attract mosquitoes.

The five WNV positive crows announced today were collected in the Monmouth County communities of Farmingdale (April 16), Tinton Falls (April 18 and May 5), and Wall Township (May 13), and the Morris County municipality of Lincoln Park (April 17). Both counties have been conducting mosquito surveillance and larval control since late March-early April. As a result of the positive findings, both counties will be increasing their surveillance for larval and adult mosquitoes in the immediate vicinity where the crows were found. The counties have no immediate plans to conduct any adult mosquito spraying. This strategy complies with CDC recommendations.

For more information on West Nile virus, including a downloadable brochure with prevention tips, residents should visit the Department of Health and Senior Services' website at

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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