HUNTERDON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
~ HUNTERDON COUNTY HAS FIRST WEST NILE VIRUS CASE IN NEW JERSEY ~
The Hunterdon County Department of Health reported today the first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in New Jersey during 2009. The health department received confirmation of WNV from the state laboratory of the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The case involves a 57-year-old male from Raritan Township
“We extend our wishes for a speedy recovery,” said John Beckley, health officer and director of the county health department. “Since the earliest possible days this year, our Mosquito & Vector Control division has worked aggressively to reduce mosquito populations throughout the county. With the record wet weather, we knew we were in for a very difficult season. Beyond the anomalies that nature throws at us, the challenge is to have enough resources and staff to ensure the highest level of protection we can deliver for our residents.”
The health department first learned of the case when the state notified the agency that an initial sample tested by Somerset Medical Center was positive. That result was confirmed by the state lab yesterday.
According to Beckley, with recent field testing detecting increased viral activity in mosquito pools county wide, the health department notified physicians and veterinarians last week. “Because we are seeing so many positive mosquito results across the county, we strongly encourage residents to avoid any mosquito contact if possible. During a year like this, it’s also vital that horse owners vaccinate their animals for WNV.”
Beckley advises county residents to be vigilant in emptying any kind of water-containing vessels around their homes. “Taking action right in your backyard is an important defense everyone should practice,” he advised. “Wheelbarrows, flower pots, pails. Anywhere you see water gathering and standing for days, that’s mosquito breeding grounds.”
West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus which can cause West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). WNV, commonly found in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East, first appeared in the eastern United States during summer 1999. WNV appears to circulate in wild bird populations. When a mosquito feeds on an infected bird, it becomes capable of transmitting WNV to humans and animals while biting to take its next blood meal.
Other personal steps to take to reduce risks of West Nile Virus is to stay indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening when mosquitoes are seeking blood meals; wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you are outdoors; apply insect repellent appropriately and use products containing 30 percent DEET or less, but do not apply to children under 3 years of age and never apply such products to children’s hands or faces. It is also recommended that around the home weeds be cut back and lawns mowed regularly. Using bug “zappers” to electrocute insects is not recommended because studies show they are ineffective in reducing mosquitoes and in fact often harm beneficial insects.
For more information about WNV, visit the county health department website at www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/health.htm.