As we approach the height of West Nile Virus season, the Department of Health encourages everyone-especially those traveling to the Caribbean-to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness by wearing insect repellent and removing standing water from yards.
"Human cases of West Nile Virus typically appear from August through October, and residents should be careful to protect themselves," said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. "Residents should take preventive measures like using repellent, wearing long sleeves, long-pants, covering doors and windows with screens and removing standing water on their property that breeds mosquitoes."
The Department's second annual West Nile Virus (WNV) Public Information Campaign began last week with radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs)-in English and Spanish-with tips on how residents can protect themselves from mosquito bites. The campaign also includes NJ Transit train and bus ads, digital ads and website advertising.
As of July 25, mosquito pools in 11 counties (Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic and Union) have tested positive for West Nile Virus in the Department's Public Health Environmental Laboratories.
Symptoms of WNV may include fever, muscle weakness, vomiting and dizziness. A total of 12 residents tested positive for WNV last summer. There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent WNV in humans.
As of July 28nd, a total of 25 state residents, after traveling to the Caribbean, have tested positive for another mosquito-borne virus chikungunya. The chikungunya virus is not contagious from person to person, is typically not life threatening and will likely resolve on its own. If a person tests positive for chikungunya and is then bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito may later spread the infection by biting another person. More than 300 travel-related cases have been reported nationwide this year.
The following counties have reported travel-related cases of chikungunya: Bergen-6; Burlington-1;
Essex-2; Gloucester-2; Hudson-3; Middlesex-2; Monmouth-2; Morris-2; Passaic-3 and Union-2.
The first two chikungunya cases acquired in the United States were reported in Florida earlier this month. Infection with chikungunya virus is rarely fatal, but the joint pain can often be severe and debilitating. Other symptoms include high fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash.
Symptoms appear on average three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most patients feel better after a few days or weeks, however, some people may develop long-term effects. Complications are more common in infants younger than a year old; those older than 65; and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
Additional information on chikungunya is available at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/ and http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/geo/caribbean.html.
If you experience symptoms of chikungunya fever, consult with your health care provider immediately and protect yourself against further mosquito bites. A person infected with chikungunya should stay indoors as much as possible until symptoms subside to prevent further transmission. Avoiding mosquito bites while you are sick will help to protect others from getting infected. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than two months. There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent chikungunya fever.
Finally, dengue, another mosquito-borne illness which rarely occurs in the continental US., but is endemic in Puerto Rico and in many popular tourist destinations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands, is caused by any one of four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. There are not yet any vaccines to prevent infection with dengue virus and the most effective protective measures are those that avoid mosquito bites. Symptoms of dengue include high fever, severe headache, and joint pain. When infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment can substantially lower the risk of medical complications. New Jersey has had 13 travel-related cases of dengue so far this year.
The Department of Environmental Protection works closely with the Department of Health and counties to fight mosquitoes through surveillance, mosquito habitat elimination, aerial spraying, research, and natural biological controls that stock lakes and streams with mosquito-eating fish.
"The best defense to battle mosquitoes in your own yard is a good offense," said Eric Williges, Administrator of the DEP's Office of Mosquito Control. "Remove anything that can collect standing water that acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Sometimes these are obvious, such as open trash cans, wheelbarrows, or flower pots. Often they are less obvious, such as clogged gutters or untended kids' pools. Also remember to be vigilant about changing pet water bowls and bird baths."
To protect yourself and your family against WNV, chikungunya, and other mosquito-borne illnesses, drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots, tires or any other containers. Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
For additional information about West Nile Virus please visit: http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/westnile/index.shtml
For more information about chikungunya, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/
To learn more about dengue: visit: http://www.cdc.gov/Dengue/