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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   November 14, 2001

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

For Further Information Contact:
DHSS - Laura Otterbourg, 609-984-7160
DEP - Sharon Southard, 609-984-1795
NJDOA - Debbie Lawler, 609-292-8896

CORRECTED - 11/15/01

West Nile Virus Update

New Jersey Records 7th WNV Human Case, 1st Death this Season

TRENTON - A 45-year old Carteret (Middlesex County) man has become the first state resident this season to die after being infected with the West Nile virus (WNV).

The man reported having intermittent fever and chills beginning in mid-August, and was hospitalized at Raritan Bay Medical Center on August 21 after experiencing severe muscle weakness. He developed medical complications and, after a long course of illness, died on October 4. The man was most likely bitten by an infected mosquito in late-July or early August. Since then, mosquito control activities and colder weather have helped reduce the risk of further WNV transmission.

Blood samples drawn from the man and sent to a private laboratory for testing came back positive for WNV in mid-September. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services was notified of the case on October 2 and arranged for blood and spinal fluid samples to be sent to its Public Health and Environmental Laboratories for further testing. Those tests also detected WNV and were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which confirmed the case yesterday.

"On behalf of all of us working to reduce illness caused by West Nile virus, I wish to extend our sympathies to this gentleman's family and friends," said New Jersey Health and Senior Services Acting Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D.

Confirmation of this case brings to seven the number of New Jersey residents detected with WNV this season. In addition to people, the virus has also been found this year in 1,071 crows, 322 mosquito pools and in 19 horses this year. In 2000, testing confirmed the presence of WNV in six state residents, including one who died, and numerous birds, mosquitoes and horses.

While the state lab stopped accepting crows for WNV testing in mid-October, human surveillance for the virus is continuing to the end of November, Dr. DiFerdinando said.

"Our surveillance efforts this season were effective as we were able to document West Nile virus activity in all 21 New Jersey counties," Dr. DiFerdinando said.

Dr. DiFerdinando said New Jersey's WNV surveillance, control and prevention activities this season involved the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These included 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. The commissioner said residents who reported dead crows to local authorities also played a key role in tracking the virus.

"We extend our condolences to the family of this individual and remain committed to attacking this disease through statewide surveillance, vector control and preventive measures," said State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn. Shinn added that county mosquito control agencies and state agency coordination will continue to perform surveillance of mosquitoes and mosquito habitats and will conduct water management and biological control as needed during the off-season.

Shinn said the state has proposed an additional $2.4 million in fiscal year 2002 budget for tire clean up. This year, every county in the state received funding from a $2.4 million tire round-up program to assist in cleaning up scrap tires that can serve as mosquito breeding grounds if left untreated.

While the risk of WNV infection has ended with the arrival of shorter days and colder temperatures, the risk will return in the spring and people can take steps now and next year to eliminate mosquito breeding areas around their homes and protect themselves and their families from infection.

Among the personal precautions residents can take now are such measures as eliminating standing water on their own property (such as clearing clogged gutters, draining flower pots, recycling old car tires, etc.), and repairing window and door screens. In the spring, summer, and fall residents can spray insect repellent on their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions, wear long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, or curb outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening.

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.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the state's WNV Resources webpage at www.state.nj.us/governor/westnile.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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