News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
October 12, 1999
For Further Information Contact:
DOH, Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160
DEP, Sharon Southard
609-984-1795
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New Jersey's Update on West Nile-like Virus

TRENTON - A sampling of Culex pipiens mosquitoes submitted by the Vector Surveillance Program at Rutgers University to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tested positive for the presence of the West Nile-like virus. The surveillance program is funded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The infected samples were collected in the Secaucus area of Hudson County on September 28th. Since then, Hudson stepped-up mosquito control efforts and light traps examined on October 7th contained no Culex pipiens mosquitoes. Additional mosquito samples collected from Hudson and other counties throughout the state have either tested negative for the virus or are awaiting analysis by the CDC.

While birds -- and now mosquitoes -- have been found with the West Nile-like virus in New Jersey, no state resident has been confirmed with the virus to date.

The New Jersey Department of Health today reported it is now aware that blood and/or spinal fluid samples have been drawn from more than 30 state residents by health care providers and submitted directly to public and private laboratories for testing for the West Nile-like virus. The additional human samples, most collected within the past week, were submitted to private labs, the department's lab in Trenton, CDC labs or to the New York State Department of Health Laboratory in Wadsworth, N.Y. To date, four specimens have been tested and all four are negative for the virus.

The department is urging providers, hospitals and labs to continue to contact the department immediately if specimens are drawn from patients exhibiting symptoms consistent with illness due to the West Nile-like virus so that the department can keep an accurate, up- to-date count of samples being submitted for testing.

New Jersey State Epidemiologist Dr. Eddy Bresnitz said, "Given the fact that mosquito control efforts have been effective and that the mosquito population has been dwindling, it is very likely these samples will test out negative for the West Nile-like virus."

The department also reported today that 50 dead birds it submitted to the CDC for analysis have been tested. Thirty-five birds - 34 crows and one pigeon -- found in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris and Union have tested positive; fifteen crows found in Atlantic, Mercer, Ocean and Passaic tested negative for the virus.

The West Nile-like virus, closely related to the St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) virus last identified in New Jersey in 1975, is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Neither virus is directly transmitted from birds to humans or from person to person. The West Nile-like virus generally causes a milder illness than SLE in humans.

The West Nile-like virus was first isolated and identified by the CDC in late September in birds, including a wild crow, that died in New York City and Westchester County. CDC reports the West Nile- like virus outbreak that has made a number of New York residents ill is continuing to wane. CDC has reported the onset of illness in the last confirmed case in New York was September 17th. To address the situation, New Jersey has taken the following actions:

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