Two elderly people have become the first New Jersey residents to die this year from complications related to West Nile virus.
State health officials announced the deaths Tuesday. But the victims' names were not disclosed.
The first case involved a 78-year-old Gloucester County woman who was hospitalized after she developed fever, blurred vision, weakness and diarrhea last month. She died Aug. 24, and the death was reported to the health department on Tuesday.
The other victim was a 92-year-old man from Morris County, who developed fever and muscle weakness last month and was hospitalized with encephalitis. He died Saturday.
Four other New Jersey residents have tested positive for West Nile virus this year. Two live in Camden County, while the others live in Bergen and Burlington counties.
All counties, with the exception of Cumberland and Salem, have detected West Nile virus activity in mosquitoes.
"September is the peak of West Nile Virus season, so I encourage everyone to take steps to prevent mosquito bites,'' Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said Tuesday. She said anyone who suspects they may be infected with West Nile should visit their health care provider.
Officials are urging residents to be careful of places where standing water can accumulate. Mosquitoes get the virus from feeding on infected birds and then spread it to people they bite.
Last year was the most active West Nile virus season in the state's history, with 48 cases and six deaths. In 2011, there were seven cases and no deaths, while 30 cases and two fatalities were recorded in 2010.