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West Nile threat rising in NJ

As the dog days of summer approach, New Jersey residents face an elevated threat of contracting a dangerous and potentially deadly disease carried by mosquitoes — West Nile Virus.

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(FEMA, Getty Images News)

There are concerns that all of the rain we’ve had this summer could result in a bumper crop of mosquitoes across the Garden State.

According to New Jersey Department of Health Epidemiologist Shereen Semple, West Nile virus has been detected in mosquito pools from 11 counties in New Jersey to date, but so far no human cases have been confirmed. That doesn’t mean, however, the coast is clear.

“We are entering the time of year when the risk increases to our residents and travelers to our state, so we are emphasizing our prevention messages, which include removing standing water where mosquitoes can breed, and wearing insect repellent to keep them away from you,” she said.

She said many individuals who get West Nile don’t have any symptoms whatsoever, but “about 20 percent of infected people will develop West Nile fever, which could include flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches, nausea and sometimes swollen lymph nodes, and in some cases it can progress to a more severe neurological illness, such as in older adults, or immune compromised people, and those symptoms could include a higher fever, neck stiffness and encephalitis.”

Last year in New Jersey, two people died after contracting West Nile.

Semple said mosquitoes in New Jersey are tested for a wide spectrum of viruses including West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis and La Crosse virus Encephalitis, but to date, only West Nile virus has been detected.

“If someone thinks they have West Nile virus they certainly can see their health care provider,” she said. “However the less severe cases do resolve on their own.”

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