LODI, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey health officials have confirmed a second fatality from West Nile virus this year, part of what they say is a record number of cases in the state.
There have been a total of 31 human cases, with both deaths associated with the virus in Bergen County.
"The number of human West Nile virus cases is the highest we've seen since 2012, and the season is not over yet," New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. "The pattern of hot and wet weather this summer has led to an increase in mosquito populations and associated viruses."
The two deaths so far this year were among a 62-year-old man and an elderly woman. Both passed away this month. In 2017, there were eight human cases of West Nile, and Dr. Elnahal noted the number of positive West Nile virus mosquito pools is the highest ever reported. This is particularly true in the northwestern and central parts of the state, where levels usually are not high. There has also been an increase in reports of dead and ill birds.
"Residents should protect themselves by using repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and avoiding the outdoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active," Dr. Elnahal said. "West Nile Virus most often causes mild symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches or a rash for healthy individuals, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and those with compromised immune systems."
The virus is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus. It is not spread from person to person, and many people infected do not become ill and may not develop symptoms.
About 20 percent of infected people will develop West Nile fever. When symptoms occur, they may be mild or severe.
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, while severe symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis) which can lead to coma, convulsions and death.
Less than 1 percent of infected people will develop severe symptoms. People over the age of 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness.
Tips for reducing mosquitoes around homes
Mosquitoes require water for reproduction. The following are measures that can help reduce mosquitoes:
-Eliminate standing water suitable for mosquitoes
--Dispose of water-holding containers, such as ceramic pots, used tires, and tire swings
--Drill holes in the bottom of containers such as those used for recycling
--Clean clogged roof gutters.
--Turn over objects that may trap water when not in use, such as wading pools and wheelbarrows
--Change water in bird baths on a weekly basis
--Clean and chlorinate swimming pools. When pools are not in use, use pool covers and drain when necessary
Tips for avoiding mosquito bites when outdoors
Mosquitoes require a blood meal for reproduction. The following are measures that can help reduce bites from mosquitoes that feed on people:
--Be particularly careful at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
--Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. Clothing material should be tightly woven.
--Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors.
--Consider the use of CDC-recommended mosquito repellents, containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, or 2-undecanone, and apply according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.
--When using DEET, use the lowest concentration effective for the time spent outdoors (for example, 6 percent lasts approximately two hours and 20 percent for four hours) and wash treated skin when returning indoors. Do not apply under clothing, to wounds or irritated skin, the hands of children, or to infants less than two months old.
Also, be sure door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair to avoid mosquito bites when indoors.
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2nd death from West Nile virus confirmed in New Jersey