Three people in our area have died from the West Nile Virus. And the number of documented cases in our tri-state area is 39 -- 15 in New Jersey, 19 in Pennsylvania and 5 in Delaware.
The latest victim is 77-year-old man from Willingboro, Burlington County, New Jersey. He is the first documented West Nile death in the state of New Jersey this year. He developed fever, weakness and respiratory distress.
An elderly woman from Delaware also died from the mosquito-borne illness, as did an elderly man in Luzerne County, Pa.
"This is peak West Nile Virus season and like the rest of the nation, high mosquito activity is contributing to the spread of the virus," said NJ Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.
"Residents should protect themselves by using repellent, wearing long sleeves, long pants and removing standing water on their property that breeds mosquitoes."
Robert Kent, the man in charge of mosquito control for New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection urges people to report mosquito activity to county agencies by calling 888-666-5968. And he repeated the need for folks to remove all standing water from their property because it can become a breeding area for mosquitoes.
"Protect yourself and your family by remembering the three Rs – remove, repel and report," Kent said.
Other tips to help you protect yourself and your family:
- Maintaining screen doors and windows
- Using insect netting on infant carriers and strollers
- Limiting outdoor activity at dawn and dusk
- Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers
- Using landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property. Mosquitoes will develop in any puddle that lasts more than four days
- Maintaining mechanical barriers, such as window and door screens, to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings. Barriers over rain barrels or cistern and septic pipes will deny female mosquitoes the opportunity to lay eggs on water
- Ensuring that gutters are not clogged and are running freely
To date, New Jersey had 15 confirmed cases of WNV. Here is the breakout by county:
- Bergen: 1
- Burlington: 1
- Camden: 1
- Essex: 2
- Gloucester: 1
- Hudson: 1
- Mercer: 1
- Middlesex: 1
- Monmouth: 1
- Ocean: 3
- Passaic: 1
In Delaware, there have been five documented cases this year and one person, including the elderly woman who died the first week of September.
To date, Pennsylvania has 19 confirmed cases. Last month, an elderly man in Luzerne County died of West Nile. Every county in our viewing area is considered a "Hot Zone" or high risk for West Nile, according to the state's tracking map:
From the Centers for Disease Control:
Q. What are the symptoms of West Nile virus (WNV) infection?
A. Infection with WNV can be asymptomtic (no symptoms), or can lead to West Nile fever or severe West Nile disease.
It is estimated that about 20% of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash (on the trunk of the body) and swollen lymph glands. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported being sick for several weeks.
The symptoms of severe disease (also called neuroinvasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease. Serious illness can occur in people of any age, however people over age 50 and some immunocompromised persons (for example, transplant patients) are at the highest risk for getting severely ill when infected with WNV.
Most people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile virus will not develop any type of illness (an asymptomatic infection), however you cannot know ahead of time if you'll get sick or not when infected.