September is the peak of West Nile Virus season. Residents are encouraged to take steps to prevent mosquito bites by wearing insect repellent with DEET and to limit time outdoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
The New Jersey Department of Health is reminding residents to take the following additional steps to protect against West Nile Virus including:
- Maintain screen doors and windows
- Use insect netting on infant carriers and strollers
- Wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible
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. In 2010, there were 30 cases and two fatalities.
New Jersey residents can also take steps to reduce the mosquito population by:
- Disposing of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property
- Removing standing water from any tires on your property. Used tires are a popular breeding ground for mosquitoes
- Drilling holes in the bottom and elevate recycling containers that are left outdoors
- Cleaning clogged roof gutters on an annual basis, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains. Roof gutters are easily overlooked but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season
- Turning over plastic wading pools when not in use. A wading pool becomes a mosquito producer if it is not used on a regular basis
- Turning over wheelbarrows and not allowing water to stagnate in bird baths Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers
Many people infected with West Nile Virus do not become ill and may not develop symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may be mild or severe and show up three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Mild symptoms include flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches, nausea and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Severe symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis or meningitis) which can lead to coma, convulsions and death.
Anyone who suspects they may have West Nile Virus should visit their health care provider for further evaluation and potential testing. There is no treatment for West Nile Virus, and mild to moderate infections usually resolve within 7 to 10 days. More severe infections may require hospitalization and supportive treatment.