New Jersey Health Department said last week that there is an increase of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in the state. “We are seeing an increase in mosquitoes at present due to the recent flooding from Ida,” said Shawn LaTourette, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
This increase in the mosquito population has resulted in cases of infection in the state’s residents. As of last week, there were 14 reported infections and one death.
As reported by The Daily Journal, the cases reported have the following distribution: Three in Burlington, two each in Bergen and Camden, and one each in Essex, Gloucester, Middlesex, Passaic, Somerset, Ocean and Monmouth counties.
A Camden County man in his 60s who became infected in mid-July died after the disease invaded his brain and nervous system, the Health Department said.
With the peak season for West Nile illness in occurring every August and September, officials urged people to protect themselves against mosquito bites. Mosquitoes get infected by feeding on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes then spread the virus by biting humans and other animals, such as horses.
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According to the Department of Health website, people over age 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness. Mild symptoms are flu-like and may include fever, headache, body aches and sometimes a rash.
Many people infected with West Nile virus do not become ill and may not develop symptoms. About 20% of infected people will develop West Nile fever. Symptoms may show up 3 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
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% of infected people will develop severe symptoms.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is asking residents to remove standing water in their yards and cover any empty containers that can hold water for more than three days.
In addition, health officials recommend that people wear insect repellent or long sleeves and pants when outdoors, especially at dawn or dusk; cover cribs, strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting; and repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
What is the treatment?
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. The best way to prevent the disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Most people with West Nile fever will recover in approximately seven days. Antibiotics are not effective against viral illnesses and anti-viral drugs have not shown to be effective for treating West Nile virus. Most treatment focuses on supportive therapy to lower fever and ease pressure on the brain and spinal cord. In severe cases, hospitalization may be needed. There is no vaccine for humans.
If you need more information on the disease contact your local health department, the NJ Department of Health http://www.nj.gov/health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/westnile.