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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 25, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
609-984-7160


 
Three Departments Partner to Protect New Jersey Residents from Increased Threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis


 

The New Jersey Departments of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), Environmental Protection (DEP), and Agriculture warned New Jersey residents today that the mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus has been detected earlier in the season than ever before, and may pose a greater health threat than the West Nile virus. 

 

EEE is a rare but serious disease that causes an inflammation of the brain tissue. EEE has a significantly higher risk of death than West Nile infection.

 

“Early symptoms are identical to those for West Nile virus infection, including fever, headache and changes in mental status,” said DHSS Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. “People who have been exposed to mosquito bites and exhibit these symptoms should consult a physician for examination and treatment.

 

“While there is a vaccine for horses, there is no vaccine for people so New Jersey residents must take precautions to protect themselves from infection by mosquito bites,’’ said Commissioner Lacy.

 

“This year’s increased rain created favorable habitats for the type of mosquitoes that carry the EEE virus,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell.  “That puts New Jersey residents at increased risk of infection from both West Nile Virus and EEE, and we are stepping up mosquito control efforts in response.”

 

In early July, DHSS detected EEE in a mosquito pool in Burlington County as part of routine surveillance activities, and warns that it will likely be found in other areas of the state. There have been two human cases in Georgia with one fatality, and Illinois saw its first case ever.  Additionally, there have been dozens of horse deaths in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that this might be an unusually active year for Eastern Equine Encephalitis.  EEE normally cycles through avian (bird) populations over the summer and into mosquitoes from late summer to early fall, but has appeared in mosquito populations along the eastern seaboard of the United States earlier than usual this year.

 

New Jersey’s West Nile Virus Working Group, which coordinates county and local surveillance and control of the virus, recommended recently that the state address EEE prior to evidence of an outbreak in horses or humans. 

 

“EEE-carrying mosquitoes breed in a broader variety of habitats than West Nile-carrying mosquitoes, making larval stage control very difficult,” Campbell said. “To combat the increased mosquito population and the risk it poses, our Integrated Pest Management strategy requires that we increase statewide spraying for adult mosquitoes beyond traditional levels.”

 

The general public may see visible mosquito control applications of DEP- and EPA-registered insecticides during the evening or early morning hours throughout the summer and early fall.  Residents can contact their county mosquito control agencies for updated schedules of such applications.

 

“The most effective preventive treatment for horses is a vaccination regimen that involves two injections roughly two weeks apart,” said Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. “Horses that are exposed to mosquitoes for more than six months in a year such as those wintering in Florida often require a second regimen for year-round protection.”

 

Horse owners should contact their veterinarians now if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against EEE. It is important to note that the vaccine for West Nile virus does not protect horses against EEE, or vice versa. 

 

Residents can avoid mosquito bites and reduce their risk of both the EEE and WNV virus by wearing insect repellent, and light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever possible. Residents should also clean, empty and remove any items on their property that collect and hold water to reduce the available breeding ground for mosquitoes. 

 

For further information about EEE please see the department's website at http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/f_eee.htm

 

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