News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
September 27, 2000
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno
Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160
NJ Home Page DHSS Home Page

West Nile Virus Update
Two New Human Cases, Including First Reported Death

TRENTON - Two more New Jersey residents have tested positive for the presence of West Nile virus (WNV). The new cases include an 82-year old Little Falls man who died in mid September, and a 72-year old Bayonne woman who is home recovering.

The Little Falls man is the first person with WNV to die this year in the United States. He became ill September 3, and was admitted to The Mountainside Hospital three days later. He died September 14. The Bayonne woman was admitted to Bayonne Hospital September 1 and discharged September 6.

Both residents were most likely bitten by infected mosquitoes in mid to late August. Since then, mosquito control activities and colder weather have helped reduce the risk of further WNV transmission. To date, four people in New Jersey have been diagnosed with WNV.

"Federal, state and local officials have been working tirelessly to detect West Nile virus, target mosquito control activities and promote prevention measures that individuals can take to reduce their risk of infection," said Governor Christie Whitman. "The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized New Jersey for its efforts in dealing with this new virus."

Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant said the two new cases are further evidence that the West Nile virus has firmly established itself in the Northeast.

"Fortunately, most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito don't get sick and never even know they have been exposed. Unfortunately, for some, this virus can cause serious illness and death. It's therefore important that all residents take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure," said Grant.

Preventive measures residents can take include: spraying insect repellent on clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions and wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors; curbing outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening; installing window and door screens and keeping them in good repair; and eliminating standing water on their own property that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. These precautions should be taken until after the first hard frost of the season.

The 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 are at higher risk of more severe disease.

Supplementing personal precautions, Grant noted that federal, state and local officials have implemented a comprehensive disease surveillance system and aggressive mosquito control activities. Those activities -- which includes human, bird, mosquito and horse testing and mosquito surveillance and targeted larvacide and adultacide application -- have won praise from CDC officials this summer.

In Bergen County last week to review state's surveillance, testing and mosquito control activities, CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan said, "The right things are being done to reduce risk of West Nile virus transmission here in New Jersey."

New Jersey's WNV activities are being conducted by 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.

In total, blood and/or spinal fluid samples from 38 residents have been or are in the process of being tested for the presence of WNV. To date, 4 tests were positive, 15 were negative and 19 are pending (Click here to view list.). These individuals either had symptoms or signs that met the established WNV testing criteria or exhibited most of the symptoms and are from counties where the virus has been discovered through surveillance activities.

Serum and/or spinal fluid samples from New Jersey's latest human cases tested positive in the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services laboratories. The results were verified last night by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additional confirmatory test results from the CDC will be available in the next few weeks.

New Jersey's earlier human cases include a 43-year old Jersey City man and a 54-year old man with dual residency in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Cliffside Park, Bergen County. Human testing for WNV is being conducted at the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' Public Health and Environmental Laboratory in Trenton and at public health labs in other states. Testing results are sent to the CDC for verification.

To date, 838 birds (837 crows and a cockatiel) found in 16 counties have tested positive for the presence of WNV. Positive birds have been found in Bergen (179), Burlington (3), Camden (2), Cape May (2), Essex (89), Gloucester (2), Hudson (60), Hunterdon (3), Mercer (5), Middlesex (162), Monmouth (129), Morris (26), Ocean (6), Passaic (63), Somerset (13) and Union (94) Counties. The tests were conducted at the Department of Health and Senior Services' lab in Trenton. A total of 1,527 crows submitted by local health departments have been accepted for testing this year.

Thirty-four mosquito pools collected in Bergen (19), Essex (1), Middlesex (2), Monmouth (3), Passaic (7) and Sussex (2) Counties have also tested positive for the presence of WNV. In total, 13,885 mosquito pools from all 21 counties have been collected by the Rutgers Mosquito Research and Control Unit and tested by the Department of Health and Senior Services and/or the CDC.

WNV has also been detected in six horses from Atlantic (2), Cape May (1), Ocean (1) and Sussex (2) Counties. The tests were conducted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's animal health laboratory in Trenton and were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

Other surveillance methods, including testing blood samples taken weekly from sentinel chicken flocks placed in all 21 counties and blood samples collected from 541 house sparrows collected in Bergen, Passaic and Sussex County in late July have not detected WNV.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the State Department of Health and Senior Services' website at www.state.nj.us/health, the State Department of Environmental Protection's site at www.state.nj.us/dep/mosquito, the State Department of Agriculture's site at www.state.nj.us/agriculture, or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's site at www.cdc.gov.

# # #

NJ Home Page DHSS Home Page