With all of the rain we’ve had and warmer-than-normal temperatures this summer and fall, reports of West Nile Virus are higher than they’ve ever been in the Garden State.

So far, there have been 34 confirmed human cases, including two fatalities from the mosquito-borne disease.

Dr. Ted Louie, an infectious disease expert with the Medical Society of New Jersey, said the conditions we’ve had this summer and fall have created perfect breeding conditions for mosquitoes.

“If there’s any pools of standing water, the mosquitoes will absolutely go crazy — so maybe a combination of the heat alternating with the heavy rains," Louie said.

He said many Garden state residents may get West Nile Virus and not even realize it.

“Mild cases will probably cause you to have fever and headache, maybe a little bit of achiness, fatigue, that sort of thing," Louie said.

Someone with a mild case of West Nile may also experience nausea, a rash or swollen lymph glands.

Louie said that doesn’t seem serious “but in a very elderly person, somebody with a poor immune system, they may get disastrous consequences.”

In some cases, “you can have confusion, you can actually go into coma perhaps, you may have leg weakness and the serious cases end up in the hospital.”

He noted in rare instances, West Nile Virus can cause a swelling of the brain and death.

He said if you’re outside for any length of time, especially near water “I would certainly want to protect myself against mosquitoes, and that might include insect repellent and covering yourself up.”

Also, Louie said, if you notice a dead bird, do not handle it.

“Dead birds, they may have died from West Nile, so they may transmit it to you," he said.

He noted West Nile Virus will remain a threat until we have the first frost later this fall, which will wipe out the mosquito population.

To limit the number of mosquitoes, the New Jersey Department of Environmental protection is recommending the following steps be taken by all state residents:

  • Empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans at least once or twice a week.
  • Clear clogged rain gutters.
  • Check for and remove any containers or trash that may be difficult to see, such as under bushes, homes or around building exteriors.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents when outdoors and wear protective clothing.
  • Stay in air-conditioned places or rooms with window screens that prevent access by mosquitoes.
  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property.
  • Drill holes in the bottom and elevate recycling containers that are left outdoors.
  • Repair and clean storm-damaged roof gutters, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees tend to clog drains. Roof gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Avoid allowing water to stagnate in bird baths.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens become major mosquito producers if they stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, including those not in use. An untended swimming pool can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may also breed in water that collects on pool covers.
  • Repair and maintain barriers, such as window and door screens, to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings. Barriers over rain barrels or cistern and septic pipes will prevent female mosquitoes from laying eggs on water.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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