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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  September 5, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

First Human Case of West Nile Virus
Detected in Mercer County Man

TRENTON - A 77-year-old Ewing man has tested positive for the West Nile virus, becoming the first human case in New Jersey this season, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D., announced today.

The Mercer County case is the 19th case in New Jersey since 1999. Nationwide, 30 states, including New Jersey, have reported a total of 737 cases. There have been 40 deaths in 14 states as of yesterday.

Serum and spinal fluid samples tested positive for West Nile virus in the Department's Public Health and Environmental Laboratories. The state lab received specimens on August 28 and completed testing yesterday. Final confirmation of this case will be made through testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Mercer County man was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton on August 21 with symptoms including fever, stiff neck and changes in mental status. He currently remains hospitalized in serious, but stable condition.

The patient has not had recent travel or blood transfusions. He was active in his backyard in the weeks preceding his hospitalization.

"Most people infected with West Nile virus experience only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Some individuals - such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems -- may develop more serious illness," Commissioner Lacy said.

"Considering that the West Nile virus has been widespread this season among birds and mosquitoes, a human case of this disease is not unexpected,'' Lacy said.

"This season's first human case of West Nile virus infection in New Jersey should remind residents that they can protect themselves from infection by using insect repellent according to labeled directions and wearing long-sleeved clothing, especially at dawn, dusk and during the evening," he added. "Residents should also keep window screens in good repair and eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed."

So far this year, 73 New Jersey residents, including the Mercer County resident, have met the state's testing criteria. Of those, 32 are negative for West Nile virus and 40 are pending test results.

Statewide, of 834 crows tested, 569 in 19 counties have tested positive. Additionally, 5,556 mosquito pools have been tested and 203 tested positive in 19 counties.

In Mercer County, 39 crows/birds and two mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile.

West Nile virus is an arboviral disease that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes pick up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.

"While human cases of West Nile virus have been reported around the country, New Jersey's history of comprehensive mosquito control plays a vital role in greatly reducing residents' risk of contracting this disease," added Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner. "We also rely on community physicians for recognizing and promptly reporting cases."

New Jersey's West Nile virus surveillance, control and prevention activities involve the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These include the state Departments of Health and Senior Services, Environmental Protection and Agriculture; the State Mosquito Control Commission; the Rutgers Mosquito Research and Control Unit; the CDC; and local health and mosquito control agencies.

For more information on WNV, visit the state's home page at and click on "West Nile virus.''

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

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