Cape May County woman confirmed infected with West Nile Virus

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A 64-year-old woman is the county’s first confirmed case of West Nile Virus this year, the Cape May County Department of Health reported Monday. The woman fell ill in August and remains hospitalized. Hers is the 22nd case of West Nile Virus in the state this year, with one death occurring in Burlington County.

“We’ve found it all over the place,” said Dr. Peter Bosak, superintendent of the county Department of Mosquito Control, in a phone interview Monday afternoon. He named Avalon, Belleplain, Erma, Seaville, South Dennis, Villas and West Cape May as the places where mosquitoes, which carry the virus, have tested positive for the disease.

This is the second time in two years Avalon has had a positive test for West Nile Virus-infected mosquitoes. The first time was in 2010.

Bosak said there is no unifying characteristic of the places where the 15 infected samples were collected, except that most are inland. He said the disparity in counts could be explained by the number of water collections done in certain locations, with more collecting and testing done inland.

“We pretty much test from the same traps in the same places,” he said. “It’s not like we move the traps every day.”

As of Monday, two birds and 15 collections of mosquitoes also were confirmed infected by the virus, which in the most severe cases can cause death. About 1 in 150 infections will result in severe neurological disease, including brain dysfunction, the county health department said. Approximately 20 percent of cases are marked by flu-like symptoms that include body aches, fever, headache, nausea, weakness and occasionally a rash and swollen glands. Those experiencing these symptoms who have been bitten by mosquitoes are advised to contact their physician.

Bosak said the 15 infected samples were a high for the county. The previous high of 10 was documented in 2010. Four water samples tested positive last year.

His department was “alerted to the early onset of the disease in the victim,” Bosak said, and began spraying by air and truck in response. He described this year’s spraying schedule as “aggressive,” saying the department is “following the data, which translates to spraying more areas” but not spraying more often.

The department is aware that spraying is occasionally required in areas that include environmentally sensitive plants and animals, Bosak said, and does its best to balance the priority of caring for the human population with protecting non-human species as well.

Kevin Thomas, county health officer, advised residents to take precautions against mosquito bites by using a DEET-based repellent when outdoors, wearing long sleeves and pants, and limiting outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk. Other steps include maintaining properties by removing standing water, because mosquitoes will lay eggs in any puddle that lasts more than four days; cleaning and bleaching empty pools; cleaning gutters; and keeping screens in good repair.

The last time a person infected with West Nile Virus in Cape May County was reported to the county was in 2008, according to officials. 

West Nile Virus cases have been reported in 13 other counties, including one case in Atlantic county. According to county officials, there were three human cases of WNV between 2003 and 2008 in Cape May County. For more information, see www.cmchealth.net, or www.cdc.gov/features/StopMosquitoes.


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