West Nile virus usually doesn’t show up in New Jersey until August, but at the beginning of this month the state Health Department confirmed that a Hunterdon County man was diagnosed with the disease after falling ill and going to the hospital in June.

Dr. Tina Tan, the state epidemiologist, said health officials are on alert because this marks the earliest confirmed human case of West Nile in New Jersey history.

“But it’s kind of hard to predict exactly what this might mean as far as how many more human illnesses we’ll see this summer," she said.

Last year, there were 61 West Nile cases, the highest number ever recorded in New Jersey, and three people died from the disease.

That was up sharply from the previous year.

In 2017, there were eight confirmed West Nile cases with two fatalities.

Tan said that with the high temperatures we’ve had so far this summer, coupled with several powerful storms moving through with drenching downpours, “certainly weather might play a role in terms of increasing mosquito populations."

Most people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile don’t get sick, but those with weak immune systems might be prone to getting seriously ill or even dying.

Those who do experience symptoms might have fever, joint pain or rash.

“But unfortunately, some individuals are at more risk for developing complications from West Nile virus, including seizures and confusion," Tan said. "We don’t know necessarily how a person might react.”

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

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