News Release
   
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   August 22, 2001

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

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg
Dave Jamieson
609-984-7160

 

DHSS Awards $490,000 in West Nile Surveillance Grants
to Boost Local Planning, Education and Prevention Efforts


TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has awarded nearly $500,000 to counties so that they can hire a coordinator to bolster education and prevention efforts related to West Nile virus (WNV) and other vector-borne diseases.

Grants of $70,000 each were awarded to Bergen, Burlington, Camden, and Hunterdon Counties, and joint awards were given to Atlantic and Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean, and Morris and Union Counties. The grants were awarded to local health departments participating in the Local Information Network and Communication System (LINCS) through funding received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These grants are a proactive step forward in our public health response to West Nile virus and vector-borne diseases," said acting Commissioner of Health and Senior Services George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D. "The funds will be used to build-up the current disease surveillance and response systems by enhancing health planning, epidemiology, surveillance and educational activities at the local level."

Dr. DiFerdinando said coordinators will work closely with the state Department of Health and Senior Services, local health departments, mosquito control agencies, agricultural agencies, health care providers and facilities, and community organizations on efforts to reduce the public's risk of exposure to WNV and other vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease.

Grantees were selected on a competitive basis with applications being evaluated on the following criteria: justification of need; quality of application; performance, capacity and commitment of the applicant; and the demonstrated willingness and commitment to form interlocal agreements that will result in the delivery of services to multi-county areas.

"So far this year, the virus has been detected in 341 birds and 135 mosquito pools. All tests on suspected human cases in New Jersey this year have been negative," explained State Epidemiologist and Health and Senior Services Assistant Commissioner Dr. Eddy Bresnitz.

According to Dr. Bresnitz, 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.

New Jersey residents can take personal precautions to minimize their WNV exposure risk. Such measures include spraying insect repellent on their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions and wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors. Residents can also curb outdoor activities 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.

In 2000, a total of six New Jersey residents became ill and one died due to WNV infection. The virus was also detected in mosquitoes, horses, crows and other birds in 20 of the state's 21 counties. The virus was detected for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in September 1999, in birds found in New York City and Westchester County.

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 federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Mosquito Research and Control Unit, and local health and mosquito control agencies.

In 1997, New Jersey LINCS was developed and deployed statewide to facilitate and enhance disease surveillance, electronic reporting and communications, and response to conditions that threaten public health. Currently, 22 LINCS agencies across the State coordinate a variety of public health activities within their respective regions in cooperation with other local health departments, hospitals, physicians, emergency responders and various community organizations.

For more information on WNV, visit the New Jersey State homepage at www.state.nj.us and click on West Nile Virus..

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