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First case of West Nile virus confirmed in NJ

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Officials have confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus in New Jersey this year, with two other potential cases still under investigation.

A 74-year-old Hunterdon County man recently tested positive for West Nile after displaying symptoms late last month, the New Jersey Department of Health said.

The news comes amid a mosquito season that is already vastly outpacing last year’s season in New Jersey.

Between July 8 and July 28, a record number of 195 mosquito pools — a collection of trapped mosquitoes — tested positive for West Nile virus in the state, double the amount during the same time last year. It is also higher than the five-year average of West Nile during the same period, according to the state Department of Health.

So far this year there have been a total of 284 mosquito pools in 20 counties to test positive for West Nile, compared to only 192 in all of 2017, according to the state Department of Health’s vector-borne surveillance tracker. Only Passaic County has not had a mosquito pool test positive for the virus.

West Nile virus is carried by infected mosquitoes and can be transmitted to animals, birds and humans.

While West Nile can be serious, most people, around 80 percent, will not develop symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

West Nile found in another Northwest N.J. town

However, about one in five people infected develop a fever with symptoms like headache and body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people “with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely,” the CDC says.

About one in 150 people infected with West Nile develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord), according to the CDC.

Those symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

Here are some tips to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes:

  • Use an insect repellent whenever going outdoors.
  • Rid properties of mosquito breeding grounds by draining standing water.
  • Clean clogged gutters; check and repair screen doors.

For more information on West Nile virus in New Jersey, visit NJ.gov/DEP.

Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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