News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   August 29, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Dennis McGowan
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


West Nile Virus Detected in Bergen County Woman
First Human Case in New Jersey This Season

TRENTON -A 72-year old Bergenfield woman has tested positive for the presence of West Nile virus (WNV). Testing on serum and spinal fluid samples completed today by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services laboratories were consistent with the WNV diagnosis. Final confirmation of this case will be made by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within a few weeks. Prior to today's results, the virus had only been detected in New Jersey this year in mosquitoes, crows and sentinel chickens.

The patient was admitted to Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck at the end of July with symptoms consistent with WNV infection, including a fever greater than 100 degrees, muscle weakness and malaise. While her mental status has improved, she continues to experience weakness in her legs and is receiving rehabilitative therapy.

"This finding reminds us that while most people exposed to West Nile virus may experience no or only mild symptoms, for some people - particularly the elderly - West Nile virus infection can result in serious illness," said acting Heath and Senior Services Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD.

This year, the virus has been detected in birds and/or mosquitoes in every New Jersey county. In total, 647 crows and 193 mosquito pools collected from across the state have tested positive for the presence of WNV this season. In 2000, testing confirmed the presence of WNV in six state residents, and numerous birds, mosquitoes and horses.

State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner Eddy Bresnitz, MD, said the state's first confirmed human case of the season "underscores the importance of our statewide surveillance and mosquito control activities, and the key role physicians play in recognizing and reporting suspected cases of West Nile virus infection to public health officials."

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 or from person to person. WNV infection generally causes no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms; however, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of more severe disease.

"In light of our first human case of the season, we are again reminding New Jersey residents that they can take personal precautions to minimize their West Nile virus exposure risk," said Dr. DiFerdinando. "These measures include spraying insect repellent on clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, particularly 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. Window screens should also be used and kept in good repair."

New Jersey's WNV surveillance, control and prevention activities involve the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These include the New Jersey Departments of Health and Senior Services, Environmental Protection, and Agriculture, the CDC, the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Mosquito Research and Control Unit, and local health and mosquito control agencies.

For more information on WNV, visit the New Jersey State homepage at and click on West Nile virus.

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