West Nile now present in 2 more Ocean towns

West Nile now present
in 2 more Ocean towns

Lacey Township and Point Pleasant Borough have now joined Dover, Lakewood, Brick and Berkeley townships as each recording five dead crows infected with West Nile virus, according to results from the state testing lab. There are currently four positive virus results in both Stafford and Jackson townships, according to Ocean County Health Department Epidemiol-ogist Cathleen Ciniglio.

"We are reporting totals somewhat similar to last year for this time period," Ciniglio said. "Last year at this time we had recorded 60 positive crows within the county. This year the number is 53 positive crows out of 94 accepted for testing."

Ciniglio said confirmation by the state lab of a fifth crow testing positive for West Nile virus means, according to state standards, that the virus is present in those communities and residents and visitors alike need to take sensible precautions to protect themselves from exposure to mosquitoes.

"After the fifth positive result, the fo­cus changes from testing dead crows to eliminating mosquito breeding areas, while continuing to educate the public on how to lessen their risk of being bitten by a mosquito," Ciniglio said.

She said it remains important for all homeowners or business persons to no­tify the health department by calling (732) 341-9700, Ext. 7502 when they see an adult dead or very sick crow on their property. A crow is a large, black bird with black eyes. Birds for testing must be at least one foot long.

Ciniglio said the calls are necessary to help her maintain her surveillance of where the virus may be located.

There have been no reported cases of West Nile virus human infection in Ocean County this year, Ciniglio said.

"We have had four persons tested," she added, "with one negative lab result returned and the other three pending. Last year in September 2002, two people were confirmed to have had the virus within the county. Both persons recov­ered."

The state recently announced its fourth case of human infection from the disease after a sample taken from a Monmouth County woman tested posi­tive for the virus when a blood pool sam­ple was tested. The woman was a blood donor. According to state health officials, New Jersey began screening donated blood for West Nile on July 1.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 percent of mosquitoes carry the virus in areas where it is established. And less than 1 percent of people bitten by those mosquitoes ever develop serious symp­toms.

Very few persons infected with West Nile virus show any symptoms, which may include low-grade fever, headache, and occasionally, swollen lymph glands. More severe signs and symptoms can in­clude stiff neck, muscle weakness, dis­orientation, brain inflammation, coma, and rarely, death.

Ciniglio said to reduce the chances of being bitten by a mosquito, consider the following tips:

• If possible, limit outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

• If the weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors.

• Keep screen doors and windows in good repair.

• When venturing outdoors, use an insect repellent containing DEET on skin or clothing, or a repellent contain­ing permethrin on clothing. Do not use repellents on children less than 3 years old. Always use a repellent according to directions on its container.

• Keep gutters clear of debris, change water frequently in bird baths, empty kiddie wading pools as often as possible, clean yards of old tires or other items where rainwater can accumulate, and keep shrubs and lawns trimmed. This will help reduce the environment where mosquitoes breed or hide.

For more information on West Nile virus or to see photos of crows, visit the Ocean County Health Department Web site at www.ochd.org or visit the N.J. Department of Health and Senior Services Internet Web site at www.state.nj.us/health.