Statewide West Nile Virus Cases Reach Record Highs

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(Gloucester Township, NJ) – The Camden County Department of Health and Human Services (CCDHHS) reminds residents that even though the summer may be over, mosquito season is not. This summer and early fall have continued to provide wet, humid weather creating a perfect storm for an extended breeding season. The extension of that season is also delivering more statewide vector borne illnesses and is supporting the spread of West Nile Virus.

“The Health Department encourages you to use insect repellents and take extra precautions if you are outside during peak biting hours. You may also want to wear long sleeves and long pants if you are in your yard between dusk and dawn,” said Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the CCDHHS. “It is extremely important that you remain vigilant against mosquito bites, and follow these safeguards to protect yourself and your family.”

West Nile Virus cases in New Jersey are reaching record highs with a total of 31 human cases reported statewide this year, two of which were deaths associated with the virus among Bergen County residents.

Over the past five years, deaths associated with West Nile virus have included:

  • •2017: 2 (Mercer and Middlesex counties)
  • •2016: 2 (Ocean and Union counties)
  • •2015: 3 (Cumberland, Monmouth and Passaic counties)
  • •2014: 0
  • •2013: 2 (Gloucester and Morris counties)

The virus is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus. It is not spread from person to person. Many people infected do not become ill and may not develop symptoms. About 20 percent of infected people will develop West Nile fever. When symptoms occur, they may be mild or severe. Mild symptoms include flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches, nausea and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Severe symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis) which can lead to coma, convulsions and death. Less than 1 percent of infected people will develop severe symptoms. People over the age of 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness.

Reducing risk in your neighborhood

Residents, business owners and contractors can take steps to reduce mosquito populations on their properties by emptying or changing outdoor standing water at least weekly to stop mosquito breeding. Areas that may need attention include flower pots, birdbaths, clogged rain gutters, plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows, and any containers or trash that may be difficult to see such as under bushes, homes or around building exteriors. Contact with mosquitoes can also be reduced by using air-conditioning when possible and ensuring window screens are in good repair.

To safeguard against the pests, the Camden County Mosquito Commission regularly checks several thousand suspected mosquito-breeding sites across the county. Mosquito spraying is scheduled on an as needed basis based upon the results of their surveillance efforts.

“Our county mosquito commission works with the Public Health Environmental Laboratories in Trenton to verify the presence of West Nile Virus in their samples,” said Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, liaison to the Camden County Mosquito Commission. “When a pool tests positive for West Nile Virus, the mosquito Commission returns within 24 hours to spray the area.”

Residents should check their property for any object that holds water for more than a few days. All pre-adult mosquito stages (eggs, larvae, and pupae) must be in stagnant water in order to develop into adult mosquitoes.

• Swimming pools are a common problem. All pools must be checked and maintained to keep them mosquito-free. Swimming pools can breed mosquitoes within days after you stop adding chlorine or other disinfectant. Pool covers can catch rainwater and become a mosquito development site. Add a little chlorine to kill mosquitoes.

• Maintain screens to prevent adult mosquitoes from entering your home or business.

• Personal protection is strongly urged if you are outside when mosquitoes may be active—generally dawn and dusk. Insect repellants containing between 10-35% DEET are very effective, however, be sure to follow the label directions and take extra precautions with children and infants.

The Camden County Mosquito Commission suggests checking around your yard for mosquito breeding containers. The following is a checklist of tips to help eliminate mosquito breeding:

  • • Dispose of unnecessary containers that hold water. Containers you wish to save turn upside down or put holes in the bottom so all water drains out.
  • • Lift up flowerpots and dump the water from the dish underneath every week.
  • • Stock fish or add mosquito larvicide to ornamental ponds.
  • • Change water in bird baths, fountains, and animal troughs weekly.
  • • Screen vents to septic and other water tanks.
  • • Store small boats upside down and large boats so they drain. If covered, keep the tarp tight so water does not pool on top of the tarp.
  • • Do not dump leaves or grass clippings into a catch basin or streams.
  • • Do not allow water to collect on sagging tarps or awnings.
  • • Do not allow trashcan lids to fill with water.
  • • Check downspouts that are able to hold enough water to allow mosquito larvae to mature.
  • For more information, or to report a problem, contact the Camden County Mosquito Commission at (856) 566-2945 or skeeters@camdencounty.com.