Christine Grant
James S. Blumenstock
Senior Assistant Commissioner

Public Health Alert
September 8, 1999
Saint Louis Encephalitis

The New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) reported over the Labor day weekend that five residents of the Whitestone/Flushing/Auburndale sections of Queens were diagnosed with Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE). Of these five residents, two have died of the illness. NYCDOH is investigating an additional 36 ill individuals who have a clinical illness that may be SLE.

No cases of Saint Louis Encephalitis have been reported in New Jersey. SLE is a reportable disease in New Jersey, and although it is not listed as an immediately reportable disease, the New Jersey Department of Health would like to be immediately notified of any cases or suspect cases of SLE. The Department can be reached at (609)588-7500 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at (609)392-2020 at all other hours. For more information, see the fact sheet.

Saint Louis Encephalitis is transmitted to humans through the bite of certain infected mosquitos, primarily Culex pipiens in New Jersey. There is no person-to-person transmission nor any transmission to or through pets. Most people who are infected with SLE have no symptoms or only a mild non-specific flu-like illness. However, in some individuals, especially the elderly, SLE can cause a serious illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms of that illness often includes a rapid onset of headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, and tremors. Coma, convulsions and paralysis may also occur. Death occurs in 5 to 15 percent of these cases.

New Jersey's mosquito populations of Culex sp. have been very low this summer, especially in counties around the Meadowlands. New Jersey's mosquito control commissions are stepping up their monitoring of mosquito populations throughout New Jersey and are prepared to mount an airspray program if needed.

Individuals are encouraged to use personal protective measures to reduce the chance of being bitten by mosquitos. These measures include reducing time outdoors in early evening hours, wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts and applying mosquito repellent to exposed skin.

If you have any questions about SLE, need assistance with laboratory confirmation, or have questions about disease reporting, please call (609) 588-7500.

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