3 NJ men infected with West Nile Virus, 1 remains hospitalized, officials say

Three New Jersey men tested positive for West Nile Virus earlier this year, marking the state’s first cases of the disease in 2022, state officials announced Thursday.

The men tested positive in Bergen, Morris and Ocean counties, according to a joint statement from the state departments of health, agriculture and environmental protection. Two are in their 50s, one is in his 80s, and all were hospitalized. As of Thursday, one remained hospitalized and the other two were recovering at home.

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on an infected bird, has been detected in 293 mosquito pools and a red-tailed hawk this year in New Jersey, the agencies said.

In a typical year, there are eight human infections reported in the state, with 36 human cases last year, authorities said. Virus activity is elevated in mosquitoes this year, but is similar to five-year average trends.

In 2018, 61 people were infected by it. That marked the highest number of cases ever reported in the state, according to a department of health report. Three people died from the disease in Bergen County, which had the highest number of reported cases that year.

“August and September are the months that we see most West Nile Virus cases in New Jersey,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement. “It is important that residents take steps to protect themselves by using an EPA-registered insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and avoiding the outdoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.”

Early symptoms of the virus may be confused with COVID-19 or several other common viral illnesses, state officials said. Laboratory tests are needed to confirm it, but there is no specific treatment for it.

Many people infected with the virus don’t get sick and do not develop symptoms, but when they do, they can include flu-like illnesses or more severe symptoms such as swelling of the brain which can lead to coma, convulsions and death, the departments said. People over age 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness.

In addition to potentially harming humans, the virus can harm certain animals. It can even affect a horse’s neurological system. There have been no reported cases in horses so far this year.

Residents, business owners and contractors were asked to take steps to reduce mosquito populations on their properties by emptying or changing outdoor standing water at least weekly to stop mosquito breeding.

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Chris Sheldon may be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com.

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