As the height of West Nile Virus season approaches, the N.J. Department of Health and Princeton’s Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser are encouraging precautions in order to prevent the mosquito-borne illness.
“Human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) typically appear from August through October, and residents should be careful to protect themselves,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito.
Mr. Brito’s advice is reiterated by Mr. Grosser, who took up his appointment April 7. Fresh from a recent meeting with the Mercer County Division of Mosquito Control, which monitors Princeton’s mosquito population under the purview of the County Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, Mr. Grosser reported that ongoing testing for Mercer County has so far identified no (zero) WNV infected specimens.
The same cannot be said for other counties in the State. As of July 18, mosquito pools in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Hudson, Middlesex, and Union Counties tested in the State Department’s Public Health Environmental Laboratories have yielded WNV positive results. There is little room for complacency.
“Princeton Residents should remember that they are the first line of defense against this mosquito borne disease,” said Mr. Grosser, who advises the following:
When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks outdoors.
If using a mosquito repellant, make sure it is EPA-registered.
Be extra careful during peak mosquito biting hours between dusk and dawn.
Support the efforts of the Mercer County Division of Mosquito Control and local health departments by ensuring that one’s property does not contain standing/stagnant water.
Dump out empty buckets, turn over play toys and garbage can lids that have collected rainwater and may offer a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
The County assesses which mosquito species are increasing in numbers across the county and examines juvenile stages (larvae). It treats those places where the larvae are found with larvacide so as to prevent adults from emerging.
According to Mercer County entomologist Isik Unlu, adult mosquitoes are targeted with insecticide “only as a last resort.”
Each spring, Mercer County’s mosquito inspectors treat flooded areas, woodland pools, and catch basins for mosquito larvae. They also respond to service requests from residents concerned about high adult mosquito populations or standing water around their neighborhoods. In such cases, mosquito inspectors will canvas the neighborhood and attempt to eliminate all possible standing water where mosquito larvae are or may develop. They may then place traps to collect adult mosquitoes. If the adult mosquitoes are abundant, they can be treated with an adulticide.
Last May, inspectors responded to 59 service requests; this year they have responded to 100. “The best way to reduce adult mosquito populations is to determine larval habitat locations and treat them in a timely fashion,” said Ms. Unlu by email, Tuesday. “Once they become adults it is harder to control them.”
The State Department’s second annual WNV Public Information Campaign began last week with radio public service announcements, in English and Spanish, offering tips on how residents can protect themselves from mosquito bites.The campaign also includes NJ Transit train and bus ads, digital ads and website advertising.
Symptoms of the disease can include fever, muscle weakness, vomiting and dizziness. A total of 12 residents tested positive for WNV last summer. There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent WNV in humans.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) works closely with the State Department of Health and local counties to fight mosquitoes through surveillance, mosquito habitat elimination, aerial spraying, research, and natural biological controls that stock lakes and streams with mosquito-eating fish.
“The best defense to battle mosquitoes in your own yard is a good offense,” said Eric Williges, Administrator of the DEP’s Office of Mosquito Control. “Remove anything that can collect standing water that acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Sometimes these are obvious, such as open trash cans, wheelbarrows, or flower pots. Often they are less obvious, such as clogged gutters or untended kids’ pools. Also remember to be vigilant about changing pet water bowls and bird baths.”
Mr. Grosser also advised residents to report any dead birds to the Princeton Health Department by calling (609) 497-7608 as soon as possible. “Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and mosquitoes in an area and should to be tested by the State laboratory,” he said. Callers will be advised as to the process for having dead birds tested.
Instructions are also available on the Princeton website: http://www.princetonnj.gov/health/west_nile.html.
For more information, visit: www.state.nj.us/health.