The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services today reported its first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) infection this season in a 33-year-old Cumberland County man who is recovering, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today.
Nationally, there are already more human cases of West Nile virus this year than last year according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 446 human cases have been reported in 25 states, including 10 deaths in three states. This time last year, 251 cases were reported in 12 states with 11 deaths.
The timing of New Jersey’s first human case is consistent with the pattern the disease has followed in this state in the past several years. The Cumberland County case is the 44th human case in New Jersey since 1999, of which there were two fatalities. Last year, there were 25 human cases reported in New Jersey and no deaths.
The Cumberland County man reported fever, headache, stiff neck, rash and fatigue on July 28. He was admitted to South Jersey Healthcare in Bridgeton on August 5 and was discharged three days later. He is recovering at home. He was diagnosed with meningitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that is indicative of a viral infection.
The man does not have a history of blood transfusion, blood donation, vaccination against yellow fever or organ transplant. He is an avid hunter and reported getting multiple mosquito bites while hunting in Cumberland County.
The state lab received the man’s specimens on August 4 and completed testing today. Blood and spinal fluid specimens were positive for antibodies to WNV. Specimens are being sent to the CDC for confirmative testing.
So far this year, 56 New Jersey residents, including the Cumberland County resident, have met the state’s testing criteria for West Nile virus. Of those, 29 tested negative for the virus and 12 are pending test results. Samples have not yet been received for the remainder.
Statewide, of 452 crows tested, 110 in 17 counties tested positive. Additionally, of 4,525 mosquito pools tested, 48 pools in 16 counties tested positive.
“West Nile Virus became part of our environment in New Jersey in 1999 and is here to stay. Although there is no treatment for this disease, it is completely preventable by avoiding mosquito bites,” said Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. “ New Jerseyans should keep window screens in good repair and eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed, wear long-sleeved clothing - especially at dawn and dusk, and use inspect repellent containing DEET.”
These reminders will be repeated at movie theaters throughout New Jersey this summer. With funding from the CDC, the Department of Health and Senior Services has produced a public service message called “Stop West Nile Virus!” that is now showing in nine counties.
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. WNV infection generally causes no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms; however, the elderly are at higher risk of more severe disease.
New Jersey's West Nile virus surveillance, control and prevention activities involve the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These include the New Jersey Departments of Health and Senior Services, Environmental Protection, and 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, visit the state’s home page at www.state.nj.us/health and click on “West Nile virus.”