NEW JERSEY – With the identification of two additional human West Nile Virus (WNV) cases, the Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection are urging state residents to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by taking simple steps to reduce populations of the insect on their properties.
New Jersey now has three human cases of WNV. The first case was found in a 74-year old Hunterdon County resident, which was reported last week. A second case was confirmed in a 76-year old male from Essex County and an 80-year old female from Hudson County has also been diagnosed with West Nile Virus. All three individuals were hospitalized for an average of eight days and have since been discharged.
“Residents should protect themselves by using repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and avoiding the outdoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “WNV causes mild symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches or a rash for healthy individuals, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”
People over age 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness.
About one in 150 persons will develop a more severe form of the disease. Symptoms of more serious illness include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
“There are many simple and common-sense steps people can take to reduce the mosquito population and the risk of contracting West Nile virus from a mosquito bite,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said. “We remind the public of the importance of eliminating standing water from their properties and ensuring window screens are sturdy and in good shape. Safeguarding public health is the priority.”
Residents, business owners and contractors can take steps to reduce mosquito populations on their properties by emptying or changing outdoor standing water at least weekly to stop mosquito breeding. Areas that may need attention include flower pots, birdbaths, clogged rain gutters, plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows, and any containers or trash that may be difficult to see such as under bushes, homes or around building exteriors. Contact with mosquitoes can also be reduced by using air-conditioning when possible and ensuring window screens are in good repair.
Detailed guidance for mosquito-proofing your yard are available at nj.gov/health/cd/topics/vectorborne.shtml.
WNV is an arboviral disease which people can acquire through the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird. WNV is not directly transmitted from birds to humans. Last year, New Jersey had eight human cases of WNV.
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 Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, and local health and mosquito control agencies.
For more information on WNV and New Jersey’s efforts to limit its impact, visit the Department of Health’s West Nile web page at nj.gov/health/cd/topics/vectorborne.shtml the Department of Environmental Protection’s web page at nj.gov/dep/mosquito.