News Release
  
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   September 19, 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
Three More Human Cases Detected in New Jersey


TRENTON -Testing completed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' Public Health and Environmental Laboratories has detected the presence of West Nile virus (WNV) in blood and spinal fluid samples drawn from three more state residents. This brings to four the number of human cases of WNV infection detected in the state this season.

The newly diagnosed cases include a 72-year old man from Camden City (Camden County), a 66-year old man from Edison Township (Middlesex), and a 78-year old woman from Westfield Township (Union). Final confirmation of the cases will be made by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within a few weeks.

All three patients were hospitalized with symptoms consistent with WNV infection, including fever and altered mental status. Their conditions improved and all three have since been discharged. The Westfield resident is currently receiving rehabilitative therapy. The Camden man was admitted to Cooper Hospital on August 23; the Edison man to JFK Medical Center on August 31; and the Westfield woman to Overlook Hospital on September 5, 2001.

"The identification of these cases is evidence that our disease surveillance system, established in partnership with emergency room directors, infection control practitioners, and local health officers, is working well," said George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D., Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. "This system has remained active throughout the season and will continue until the first hard frost."

"The best way to fight West Nile virus is through comprehensive, year-round mosquito control and surveillance," said State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn, noting that every county in the state received funding from the $2.4 million tire round-up program this year to assist in cleaning up scrap tires which can serve as mosquito breeding grounds if left untreated. "Many of the counties have completed their clean-up plans and the state has proposed an additional $2.4 million in the fiscal year 2002 budget for tire clean-up activities."

New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Art Brown, Jr. said "The recent equine death in Burlington County further underscores the need for all landowners to continue to be diligent in cleaning up sources of standing water that could serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes."

"As with any mosquito-borne disease," Brown added, "horse owners shouldn't relax until we've had a hard freeze and that could be weeks from now. In the interim we urge horse owners to consult with their veterinarians about vaccines available to combat West Nile and other encephalitic diseases."

Testing in the state lab identified New Jersey's first human case of WNV infection this season on August 29. The CDC has since confirmed those results. The patient, a 72-year old Bergenfield woman, is currently receiving rehabilitative therapy.

In addition to humans, the virus has been detected this season in one horse, and in birds and/or mosquitoes in every county in New Jersey. In total, 825 crows and 254 mosquito pools collected from across the state have tested positive for the presence of WNV this season. 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.

Shinn thanked acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco for his support in funding additional surveillance efforts this year, as well as Senator Peter Inverso who secured an additional $100,000 in the state budget for the clean-up of 80,000 tires at Nearpara Rubber in Hamilton.

Shinn also stressed that although Labor Day has passed, the mosquitoes will still be active until early November and said the counties remain vigilant in controlling the mosquitoes through applications of pesticides to adult and larval populations. "While the cooler evenings are suppressing the mosquito activity during sunrise and sunset hours, it is still important to be aware of mosquito activity during the day and take necessary precautions," said Shinn.

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. Windows screens should also be used and kept in good repair.

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 CDC, the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Mosquito Research and Control Unit, and local health and mosquito control agencies.

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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