DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
Mosquito and Vector Control
Press Release - August 20, 2003
Contact: Carl Rachel, County Health Department Public Information Officer
Contact: Tadhgh Rainey, Program Coordinator, West Nile Virus Mosquito and Black Fly Control Program
"We haven't seen a year like this in Hunterdon in a long, long time," said Tadhgh Rainey, head of the Mosquito and Vector Control team of the Hunterdon County Department of Health. "We're getting calls from all over the county about clouds of mosquitoes and residents finding dead crows."
Indeed, this is a banner year for West Nile virus (WNV). On August 15, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services reported its first human
case of WNV infection this season in a 33-year-old Cumberland County man who is now recovering.
Nationally, there are already more human cases of West Nile virus this year than last year according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC). Across 25 states, there are now 599 confirmed human cases, including 11 deaths over four states. At this time last year, 251 cases were
reported in 12 states with 11 deaths.
The timing of New Jersey's first human case is consistent with the pattern the disease has followed in this state during the past several years. The Cumberland County case is the 44th human case in New Jersey since 1999, of which there were two fatalities. Last year, there were 25 human cases reported in New Jersey and no deaths.
"As I've said all season, the conditions this year are being complicated by the excessive amounts of rain we're getting," Rainey explained. "There are standing pools of water everywhere, and with the hotter temperatures we're seeing, the mosquito populations are booming."
The West Nile virus (WNV), an arboviral disease, is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird, with crows considered a common carrier and indicator of the disease in a community. WNV is not directly transmitted from birds to humans. Generally, WNV infection causes no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms. However, the elderly are at a higher risk for more severe disease.
So far this year, 56 New Jersey residents were tested for WNV. In addition to the one positive case in Cumberland, 29 tested negative for the virus and
12 are pending test results; samples have not yet been received for the remainder. Human testing for WNV is being conducted at the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' Public Health and Environmental Laboratory in Trenton and at public health labs in other states. Results are sent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for confirmation.
As of mid-August, the state tested 452 crow specimens. Of those birds, 110 found in 17 counties were confirmed positive for the presence of WNV. Likewise, of the 4,525 mosquito pools tested, 48 positive pools were found across 16 counties. To date three horses have tested positive for the presence of WNV; two were found in Gloucester county and the other in Camden.
Of the Hunterdon crow specimens tested for West Nile virus, nearly one third -- 19 out of 67 -- were positive, considerable evidence that the disease is present in the county. The distribution of the positive crow specimens also indicates that the virus is dispersed across much of the county: Flemington (4), Lebanon (4), Annandale (2), Hampton (2), and one each in Califon, Clinton, Glen Gardner, Lambertville, Milford, Ringoes and Whitehouse Station. Out of the 156 mosquito pools tested throughout Hunterdon, five positive samples were identified; Kingwood (2) and one each in the townships of Clinton, East Amwell and Readington.
Reinforcing Rainey's message to residents is the director of the county department of health, John Beckley, who said, "We're asking everyone across the county to be on the lookout for collected water. This includes discarded tires, plant containers, small untreated pools, rain gutters. These are places where mosquitoes breed. By eliminating the standing water in your own yard, you're protecting yourself and helping the county teams in the extensive mosquito control efforts now going on across Hunterdon."
Beckley's department is aggressively addressing WNV not only by deploying teams in the field but also by carrying out vigilant tracking of the disease by using technology. "Our global information system (GIS) is helpping us map our trapping sites and the activity experienced at those sites," said Beckley. "This gives us a visual picture of the changing dynamics of the hot spots and newly emerging active zones. This data is then used to plan our program steps."