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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  December 5, 2001

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

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

West Nile Virus Update
Eighth Human Case this Season Detected

TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services today reported that blood samples drawn from a 75 year-old Harrison (Hudson County) woman reveal she was exposed to the West Nile virus (WNV) this summer. She is currently in a good state of health and has returned to work.

The woman, who has a cardiac condition, was admitted in mid-August to West Hudson Hospital with symptoms that included fever, nausea and a headache. She regularly spent a great deal of time outdoors, and had traveled to the West Coast and the Jersey Shore just prior to her hospitalization.

Preliminary infectious disease tests on the patient were negative. She was transferred to St. Michael's Hospital in Newark for additional testing related to her heart condition. Her health subsequently improved and she was discharged in late August.

Blood tests at a private lab, and in mid-September at the DHSS lab, showed the patient had been exposed to WNV, but were inconclusive as to whether the patient was infected this season or in a previous year. More comprehensive tests conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed late last week that the infection was from this season.

"Because the patient did not have either meningitis or encephalitis, and because blood samples tested in our lab were compatible with an infection before this year, we could not say with confidence that her illness was due to acute West Nile virus infection," said Assistant Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz, MD. "The additional tests conducted by the CDC revealed an increase in antibody production from the initial to a convalescent serum that is consistent with a more recent infection."

Based on the date of her onset of symptoms, the patient was most likely bitten by an infected mosquito in late-July or early August. Since then, mosquito control activities, colder weather and shorter days have reduced the risk of further WNV transmission this year.

Confirmation of this case brings to eight the number of New Jersey residents detected with WNV this season. In addition to people, the virus has also been found in 1,071 crows, 322 mosquito pools and in 24 horses this year. In 2000, testing confirmed the presence of WNV in six state residents and numerous birds, mosquitoes and horses.

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.

West Nile virus infection is preventable. For more information on precautions citizens can take to reduce the risk of WNV, visit the state's WNV Resources webpage at

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

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