News Release
   
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   May 7, 2001

Christine Grant
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg
Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160

 

State Launches New West Nile Virus Web Page
Site Part of Efforts to Inform Public of Ways to Prevent Infection
First Posting: Tests Confirm West Nile Virus in Two Crows



TRENTON - Of 22 birds tested so far this season by the New Jersey Department of Health and
Senior Services, two crows found in Upper Saddle River (Bergen County) and Edison (Middlesex) have tested positive for the presence of the West Nile virus, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant announced today.

The department's Public Health and Environmental Laboratories performed the testing, confirming the positive results over the weekend. The 21 crows and one hawk submitted for testing so far this season came from 14 counties around the state.

"New Jersey is well-prepared to combat West Nile virus this season, but this is a clear case of an ounce of prevention being worth more than a pound of cure," said acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco who cautioned the state's residents to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.

"As the weather gets warmer and we start spending more time outdoors, people need to take action to protect themselves and their children. When children go outside, keep them away from standing water in flower pots, birdbaths and other places outside the home where mosquitoes can breed. When you go outside, make sure you pack insect repellent along with your sunscreen."

The acting Governor said that the state has a comprehensive, statewide response plan in place that will help provide residents with the best protection possible. "Additional state and federal funding this year will enable us to take a more aggressive approach in the prevention, surveillance and testing for the virus," he added.

"The most effective way for residents to avoid West Nile virus is to take steps to reduce their risk of being bitten by a mosquito," said Commissioner Grant. "This includes using insect repellent according to labeling directions and wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors. Residents can also curb outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening."

"New Jerseyans should also check for clogged gutters and other sources of standing water on your property, and take steps to eliminate these potential mosquito breeding sites," the Commissioner said.

Commissioner Grant said New Jersey has received additional state and federal funding for prevention, efforts, disease surveillance and laboratory testing this year. In addition, a public education campaign to include public service announcements will encourage residents to take personal protective measures during mosquito season.

Today's testing results have been posted on a new state West Nile virus resource web page accessible through the New Jersey home page at www.state.nj.us. The site, designed and maintained by the New Jersey Office of Information Technology, contains West Nile virus information, testing results and helpful links.

Health and Senior Services is the lead agency on West Nile virus (WNV), working with the departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, state and county mosquito control commissions, Rutgers University, and local health officials.

Earlier this year, state officials unveiled New Jersey's strategic plan for detecting and responding to the re-emergence of WNV. The plan includes increased mosquito control activities, and increased human, animal and mosquito surveillance and testing, so those working to control the virus can more effectively determine its intensity, geographic spread and impact.

In April, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) awarded the state more than $2 million to enhance its laboratory capacity and its disease surveillance efforts. The funds are being used to support the state's WNV efforts.

In addition, $2.5 million in state money has been proposed in the fiscal year 2002 budget to heighten the state's ability to track and control the virus. The state Department of Environmental Protection's budget also includes an additional $2.4 million for a grant program to help counties clean up scrap tires, which can serve as mosquito breeding grounds if left untreated.

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 or horses to humans, from horse to horse, or from person to person. In people, West Nile generally causes no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms; however, the elderly are at higher risk of more severe disease. Similarly, infected horses may not show any symptoms of the disease. When they do appear, symptoms may include the animal being "off his feed," or exhibiting neurological abnormalities.

The two WNV positive crows announced today were collected in Bergen and Middlesex Counties on April 30 and May 2, respectively. Both counties have been conducting mosquito surveillance and larval control since late March-early April. As a result of the positive findings, both counties will be increasing their surveillance for larval and adult mosquitoes in the immediate vicinity where the crows were found. The counties have no immediate plans to conduct any adult mosquito spraying. This strategy complies with CDC recommendations.

In 2000, a total of six New Jersey residents became ill and one died due to WNV infection. The virus was also detected in mosquitoes, horses, crows and other birds in 20 of the state's 21 counties. The virus was detected for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in September 1999, in birds found in New York City and Westchester County.


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