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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  August 7, 2002

 

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Thomas Slater - DHSS - 609-984-7160
Patricia Cabrera - DEP - 609-984-1795


Commissioner Lacy Emphasizes Precaution and Prevention
In Decreasing Risk of West Nile Virus

No New Jersey residents have been diagnosed with West Nile virus this summer, according to the latest health statistics compiled by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. urges that residents continue to protect themselves against mosquitoes by taking the proper precautions.

"August is the month when we see the peak in mosquito populations and the increased likelihood of getting bitten, said Dr. Lacy. "The risk of WNV infection increases as summer continues. People should take steps now to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around their homes and protect themselves and their families from infection."

Dr. Lacy recommends certain precautions residents should take now including eliminating standing water on their property (clearing clogged gutters, draining flower pots, emptying kiddie pools, recycling old car tires, etc.), and repairing window and door screens.

People should also apply insect repellent to their clothing and exposed skin in accordance with labeling directions, wear long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, and limit outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and during the evening.

In total, 47 New Jersey residents have been approved for testing for WNV this season. Five of those tested negatives and the other 42 are pending.

The individuals who were tested either had symptoms or signs that met the established WNV testing criteria or exhibited most of the symptoms and are from counties where dead crows and/or mosquitoes with the virus have been discovered.

Human testing for WNV is being conducted at the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Public Health and Environmental Laboratories in Trenton. Positive tests are sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

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.

To help control the spread of the virus, the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Mosquito Control Program has developed a series of methods to reduce mosquito populations. These include: a bio-control program to stock freshwater areas around the state with mosquito larvae-eating fish; a wetlands management program to eliminate breeding habitat while improving wetland ecology; and, a state equipment program that applies approved mosquito-specific insecticides.

"The department has heightened its monitoring efforts and continues to employ environmentally-sound methods to reduce mosquito populations around the state," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "While such activities help control the spread of the virus, individual precaution remains crucial in avoiding current threats of infection."

To date, 384 crows have been accepted for testing by the Department of Health and Senior Services Public Health and Environmental Laboratories. Of those tested, 154 crows found in 16 counties have been confirmed positive for the presence of WNV. Positive crows have been found in Atlantic (3), Bergen (11), Burlington (5), Camden (5), Essex (1), Gloucester (2), Hunterdon (2), Mercer (10), Middlesex (7), Monmouth (50), Morris (15), Ocean (31), Passaic (6), Salem (1), Somerset (4), and Warren (1) Counties.

The department has also received 137 bird samples (mostly crows) deemed unsatisfactory for testing and has been notified of 521 dead or ill birds (mostly crows) not submitted for testing due to their condition. However, at this point in the season, approximately 90% of the crows that are tested are positive for WNV.

To date, 4428 mosquito pools have been tested in the state laboratory for the presence of WNV and 77 pools found in 17 counties have tested positive for WNV. Positive mosquitoes were collected in Atlantic (1), Bergen (7), Burlington (2), Camden (4), Cape May (2), Gloucester (1), Hudson (1), Hunterdon (1), Mercer (2), Middlesex (5), Monmouth (6), Morris (14), Ocean (11), Passaic (14), Salem (1), Somerset (2), and Union (3) Counties.

Equine testing is conducted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's animal health laboratory in Trenton and positive results are sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa for confirmation. For more information, visit the Department of Agriculture website at www.state.nj.us/agriculture. There are no WNV- positive horses to date this season.

Between 1999 and 2001, lab testing confirmed WNV infection in 18 New Jersey residents, with two resulting fatalities. The virus has also been detected in mosquitoes, horses, or crows and other birds in every county in New Jersey.

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.

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

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