News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
For Release:
July 12, 2000
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno
Dennis McGowan
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Study to Examine Prevalence of West Nile Virus
in Northern New Jersey House Sparrows,
Role of Ecology and Environment in Virus' Spread

TRENTON - A study will begin this weekend to help determine the prevalence of West Nile virus (WNV) in house sparrows and other birds in Northern New Jersey. The study will look at early season aspects of WNV transmission, its geographical spread and what role ecological and environmental factors might play in its spread. Knowledge gained by the study may help refine control strategies.

Beginning Saturday and lasting for about a week, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Wildlife Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, and state and local agencies will trap, draw blood samples from, and band and release house sparrows in Bergen, Passaic and Morris Counties. Similar activities are planned for New York State.

Samples collected will then be checked for the presence of WNV at the CDC's laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado. In addition to house sparrows, mosquitoes and blood specimens from other live birds will also be analyzed. Tests will be repeated later this summer to determine if WNV activity in the selected species has expanded.

The specimen collection and analysis in this study is in addition to ongoing federal, state and local surveillance efforts to identify, track and reduce exposure to WNV.

In New Jersey, a team of experts from the departments of Health and Senior Services, Environmental Protection, and Agriculture; state and county mosquito control commissions and programs; local health departments and Rutgers University are conducting WNV monitoring and mosquito control.

To date, 299 crows and 3 pigeons have been submitted for testing to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' Public Health and Environmental Laboratory and four crows found in Bergen County have tested positive for the presence of the WNV. Crow samples have been submitted from all counties except Camden and Cape May.

Two hundred and ninety-nine blood samples taken from sentinel chicken flocks placed in all 21 counties and 236 mosquito pools collected in every county but Mercer and Ocean, have all tested negative for WNV.

Last year, when the virus was detected for the first time in the Western Hemisphere, 74 crows and two mosquito pools collected in New Jersey tested positive for the virus. No New Jersey resident tested positive for the virus last year and no human tests have been performed in 2000.

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 virus is not directly transmitted from birds to humans or from person to person. WNV infection generally causes no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms, however, the elderly are at higher risk of more severe disease.

The West Nile virus was first isolated and identified by the CDC in September 1999 in birds found dead in New York City and Westchester County. The virus was responsible for 62 human cases of encephalitis in New York State and seven deaths.

New Jersey residents have been advised to take precautions to reduce their risk of mosquito bites. This includes spraying insect repellent on their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions and wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors. Residents can also curb outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening. Residents should also eliminate standing water on their own property that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Individuals seeking additional information on West Nile virus may go to the State Department of Health and Senior Services' website at, or the State Department of Environmental Protection's site at

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