NJ’s Autumn Mosquitoes Carry West Nile Virus Threat
The kids are back in school and some trees are starting to lose their leaves.
Fall is definitely right around the corner, which means we are now entering the peak season for West Nile virus in New Jersey.
“So far we have three West Nile cases in humans, and fortunately we have had no fatalities,” said New Jersey state epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan.
In New Jersey, culex pipiens is the predominant species of mosquito that is usually carrying West Nile, and it still may be around for the next few months. The virus has been detected in mosquitoes in 20 of the state's 21 counties.
“This is the time of year when West Nile virus cases in humans begins to peak but we can see human cases occur any time during mosquito season, which roughly starts in the beginning of summer and goes to the end of November when we start to see the first hard frost,” she said.
Tan said many people who get the virus may not have any symptoms at all and some people who get infected may feel like they have the flu, with a fever, body aches and nausea. Sometimes there may be severe symptoms.
“It can be a very high fever, neck stiffness, and sometimes you can see things like swelling of the brain that could lead to hospitalization,” she said.
In rare cases, West Nile can be deadly.
“Back in 2015 we had 26 cases with three fatalities and in 2014 we had eight cases with zero fatalities, so it does vary,” she said.
Tan noted if you or your children come upon a dead bird, particularly a dead crow, do not touch it because it may be infected with the disease. You should report it to your local health department immediately.
She said the best defense against West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites by wearing repellant and long sleeves and pants. It's also a good idea to avoid bodies of water where mosquitoes tend to be at dusk and dawn.
“Get rid of standing water (where mosquitoes breed) and also make sure that you repair or install new screens on your doors and windows to just keep those mosquitoes out,” she said.
“The Department of Environmental Protection works very closely with our county mosquito agencies and we’ve had a long tradition of mosquito control to limit the diseases they carry and also for nuisance control,” she said. “Pesky mosquitoes can put a damper on outdoor activities.”