FREEHOLD, NJ — This summer’s rain has been great for growing lawns and gardens, but it’s also produced a bumper crop of breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
And more of those pesky insects are carrying the West Nile virus, according to state health officials, which reports 452 mosquito pools have tested positive for the virus in all 21 New Jersey counties. That compares to 272 pools of mosquitoes collected and testing positive at the same time last year — a nearly 70 percent increase.
Monmouth County has already identified 18 positive mosquito pools, compared to a total of three for the entire season last year.
Although only three human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed this year — one each in Hunterdon, Essex and Hudson counties — county and state officials advise residents to take precautions to ward away mosquitos to prevent their annoying bites.
“Mid-August and September are peak times for West Nile virus activity,” Monmouth County Mosquito Control reports on its website.
“Residents and visitors are encouraged to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, limiting outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, and dumping water from any containers around the home.”
In addition, the Monmouth County Extermination Commission began its spraying program this month in Keansburg and Oceanport.
Meanwhile, all three individuals diagnosed with the West Nile virus this year — a 74-year old man from Hunterdon County, 76-year-old man from Essex County and an 80-year-old woman from Hudson County — have all been discharged after being hospitalized.
People over age 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness, according to N.J. Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, M.D. “West Nile virus causes mild symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches or a rash for healthy individuals, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and those with compromised immune systems,” he said.
About one in 150 persons will develop a more severe form of the disease. Symptoms of more serious illness include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
West Nile virus is an arboviral disease that people can acquire through the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird. It is not directly transmitted from birds to humans. Last year, New Jersey had eight human cases of the virus.
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