I am sure many residents have read or heard about the recent positive testing for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare mosquito borne virus, near the Emerson Lane area of the Township. While this is a rare virus, it is a very serious one that requires our attention. I too am a parent and understand there are many who are concerned about this disease, their children, families, neighbors and seniors.
As a brief description, EEE is spread by a mosquito biting an infected horse or other mammal - often a bird – before it can be spread to a human. The transmission to humans is difficult. Horses are susceptible to EEV infection but those infections are not a significant factor for human infection because horses (like humans) are considered to be “dead-end” hosts for the virus (i.e., the concentration of virus in their bloodstreams is usually insufficient to infect mosquitoes). Typically in the United States, approximately 5-10 EEE cases are reported annually. Some humans who are bitten may not exhibit symptoms but in others it can be deadly.
So, we took swift action. Upon receiving confirmation of a positive test pool in Berkeley Heights, the Township took aggressive measures to ensure the health and safety of its residents by working with the Union County Mosquito Control Bureau, Berkeley Heights Health Officer, Union County Health Department, our DPW Director, our OEM Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator, Police Chief and Administrator.
The treatment of mosquitos in Berkeley Heights is not new. In 2019, the County of Union Mosquito Control issued 158 work orders for Berkeley Heights Township for the period January 16th to September 5th and has been lauded by the State of New Jersey Mosquito Control for their exemplary work not only in Union County, but Berkeley Heights specifically. From the period after the Township received notification on Sept 17th, Mosquito Control dedicated regular and overtime hours of personnel to spray every school, playground, county and Township park and field. Ground sprayings have and will continue throughout the Township.
On September 19th, the New Jersey Department of Health confirmed two human cases of EEE in Union and Atlantic Counties. The first case was reported in Somerset County in August. To provide another level of safety and protection, and in consultation with local, county and state officials, I requested an aerial spraying of the entire Township. We anticipate sometime this week, from 10 PM- midnight, the State of New Jersey will conduct an aerial spray in an effort to kill mosquitos and control the spread of EEE. Residents will be notified as soon as a date has been confirmed. The spray used to kill these mosquitos is considered safe for humans and pets by the New Jersey Mosquito Control Division.
Since the report of a positive mosquito test pool for EEE, there are signs that our efforts are working. On September 23rd and most recently on September 27th, the Township was notified that all test pools of mosquitoes tested negative for EEE. The Township has been advised, in consultation with the State Department of Health, the County Health Officer and our own local health officer, De Zheng, to continue all normal activities, and continue to take preventative measures such as applying bug repellent, and wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants. Immediately remove any standing water from your property to discourage the formation of mosquito breeding areas.
If you have any specific questions or concerns, please contact the Berkeley Heights Board of Health, 908-464-2700 x2167.
I will personally continue to carefully monitor this situation and the Township will communicate with the residents are swiftly as possible. As always, feel free to contact me, email@example.com, on any Township matter.