HUNTERDON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
WEST NILE VIRUS HERE IN HUNTERDON
Last week, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services reported the first death of a state resident who with multiple underlying medical conditions also testing positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). At the time of that announcement, the state also reported that 11 New Jersey residents tested positive for WNV in seven counties, including the person who died: Atlantic (1); Camden (2); Essex (1); Hudson (2); Monmouth (1) Ocean (2); and Passaic (2).
While Hunterdon County has no human cases of WNV to date, some of the bird specimens sent from the county for state lab testing were positive with the virus. This is also the case in Atlantic, Burlington, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris and Ocean counties.
“We definitely have West Nile Virus here in Hunterdon,” said Tadhgh Rainey, director of the Mosquito and Vector Control division of the county health department. “A positive result during specimen testing is not a surprise, but it is a challenge. Fortunately, we have no human or equine cases."
According to Rainey, almost all of the WNV activity is in the central and southern portions of the county. "So far, only mosquito pools are testing positive," Rainey explained. "East of us, as you approach NYC, they're seeing a fair amount of virus activity and several human cases as well. We expect mosquito activity to be ongoing for the foreseeable future. In past years, we've seen the virus active well into late October. Areas where we’ve had little action to date could still be affected.”
Everywhere Rainey’s field team goes, they strive to remind residents about how to reduce their personal risks of getting WNV. “Especially seniors and those with weakened immune systems need to take proper precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” said Rainey. “The good news is that there are things you can do right around your home to lessen your exposure to such bites.’’
Rainey explained the “5 Ds” of WNV prevention: "To begin with, drain standing water around your home such as in buckets, wheelbarrows, planters, even rain gutters. You also need to dress appropriately to cover the skin. Keep your outdoor activities limited during dusk and dawn because mosquitoes most actively feed at these times. If you choose to use insect repellent, DEET is the best for mosquito protection."
"What we're seeing now in terms of mosquito activity is a moving target and will change on a week to week basis. For example, this week we've got a spike in activity after a lull of about three weeks. That's what makes the control work challenging. It's not something you can stop once the season is upon us. And it is upon us right now."
WNV 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 human to human.
For more information on WNV visit the county health department website at www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/health.htm.