Local man is N.J.’s first case of W. Nile in ’07

Man, 88, has had symptoms since Aug., remains hospitalized


SOUTH RIVER – An 88-year-old borough man has contracted West Nile virus, the first confirmed case in New Jersey this year.

Middlesex County Public Health Department’s Director David A. Papi announced Tuesday that the illness had been confirmed through testing at the state Public Health Environmental Labs in Trenton.

The South River man came down with symptoms beginning on Aug. 29, and was admitted Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick on Sept. 3, according to Papi’s office.

He remains hospitalized and is being treated with supportive therapy, according to Stephanie Brown, public health emergency notification coordinator for the county.

“It’s not unusual that someone would still be hospitalized. He is older in age, and it takes a while to recover,” Brown said.

She said she could not release more specific information regarding the man’s health condition.

It is not known when or where the man contracted the virus, she said, but it was most likely transmitted through a mosquito bite.

New Jersey had five cases of West Nile virus in 2006, none of them fatal, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Nationwide, there were 4,269 cases, 177 of which turned fatal. Nearly a quarter of that year’s cases were in Idaho.

The symptoms of West Nile virus vary, and about 80 percent of people who are infected will not show any symptoms at all. Only about one in 150 people infected will develop severe illness, according to information provide by Papi’s office.

Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Up to 20 percent of people who become infected have milder symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

West Nile virus is usually spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, which contracted the virus by feeding on infected birds. In a very small number of cases, the virus also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and during pregnancy from mother to baby.

There is no specific treatment for the virus. In cases with milder symptoms, people experience symptoms such as fever and aches that pass on their own, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks. In more severe cases, people usually need supportive treatment at a hospital, according to the county.

Papi states the best way to prevent West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

“When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient and follow the directions on the package,” Papi said.

Since many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, residents should use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors, he said.

Residents are advised to get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets and barrels. Always change the water in pets’ dishes and replace the water in birdbaths weekly. For more information on mosquito control and West Nile virus, visit the department’s Web site at http://co.middlesex.nj.us/publichealth/ hot-topics.asp.