With New Jersey experiencing a hot and humid summer, Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., reminds residents to continue to be vigilant in preventing mosquito-transmitted infections, including West Nile virus (WNV).
“Heat and humidity create a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes in New Jersey,” said Commissioner Jacobs. “Even though we haven’t had a human case of West Nile Virus in our state this year, we are entering into the peak season for mosquito bites, which runs from mid-July through September. Residents should continue to protect themselves and their children from this and other mosquito-transmitted viruses.”
Residents should clean or remove any items on their personal property that can collect rain or sprinkler water and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, such as clogged gutters, flowerpots, or old car tires. They should also completely change water in birdbaths at least once a week and repair window and door screens.
People should also apply insect repellent to their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, weather permitting, when outdoors, and limit outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening.
So far this season, 70 birds have been tested in the department’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratories. The first bird testing positive for WNV (from Jackson, Ocean County) was submitted to the labs on June 19. PHEL has tested 785 mosquito pools with two WNV positive pools reported from Camden and Hunterdon counties.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a laboratory finding of La Crosse virus in a Cape May County mosquito trap on July 14, 2007. La Crosse encephalitis is a rare viral disease that usually affects children living in wooded areas and persons having containers of standing water near their residence. Symptoms are usually mild, with fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Persons with severe disease can have seizures and coma. Symptoms of La Crosse encephalitis appear 5-15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
To date, there have been no human WNV cases in 2007. WNV is not directly transmitted from birds to humans. There have been 89 human cases of West Nile virus in New Jersey since 1999, when the virus first appeared in the United States. Five of these cases were fatal. Last year, five human cases were reported in New Jersey; none were fatal.
“We are approaching the peak risk season for being infected with West Nile virus,” said Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist. “Although there have been very few human cases of West Nile virus in last few years, it is still important to be vigilant in protecting oneself from mosquito-borne diseases.”
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.
About one in 150 persons, or less than one percent of those infected with West Nile virus, will develop a more severe form of the disease. Symptoms of the more severe disease include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. The elderly are at higher risk of more severe disease.
New Jersey's arbovirus (including WNV, St. Louis encephalitis virus, La Crosse virus, and Eastern equine encephalitis virus) surveillance, control and prevention activities involve the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These include DHSS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, and local health and mosquito control agencies.
For more information on West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, visit the DHSS website at www.nj.gov/health.