A 64--year-old Cape May County woman who became ill last month has tested positive for West Nile virus, the first case in the county but one of growing number of incidents of human illness due to the mosquito-borne disease.
Atlantic County also has one confirmed human case this year, while Ocean County has three confirmed human cases, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. There were no reported human cases in South Jersey last year.
Cape May County officials confirmed the case of the woman, whose identity was not released and said she remains hospitalized.
Mosquitoes contract the virus by feeding on infected birds and then spread it through their bite. Most people experience no symptoms, but one fifth of those bitten may feel feverish, tired or have headaches. Less than one percent of those infected can experience severe neurological disease, according to the Cape May County Health Department.
Statewide, health officials said Monday that seven new cases of humans contracting West Nile virus had been confirmed.
None of the new cases has resulted in deaths since last week’s death of a 77-year-old Willingboro, Burlington County man.
The state Health Department said there are now 22 cases of West Nile in 15 counties as of Friday, as compared to 15 cases in 12 counties the week before.
The death in Burlington County was the first attributed to the virus since 2010. The number of human cases is three times greater than last year, when there seven confirmed cases, none of which resulted in deaths.
In 2010, of the 30 confirmed cases, two people died.
"We do anticipate that the numbers should begin to level out at this point," said Dr. Christina Tan, a state epidemiologist. She noted that West Nile cases peak in the late summer or early fall before tapering off with the first hard frost, usually in November.
In Cape May County, the virus was also found in two birds and 15 mosquito samples collected in the county, according to a press release from Cape May County Freeholder Kristine Gabor.
In Galloway, two mosquito samples and a blackbird tested positive for West Nile in August. Last week, a second mosquito sample from Birch Grove Park in Northfield tested positive for the virus. The first sample tested positive in July.
There have been more than 2,500 cases confirmed in the United State this year, according to the Center For Disease Control. More than 100 people have died including 46 in Texas and 10 in Louisiana.
Health officials recommend residents take precautions, including using insect repellent whenever going outdoors and draining standing water to cut down on mosquito breeding.
“Although the hottest weather months are over, we are still experiencing West Nile virus activity and it is important to protect you and your family from mosquitoes, particularly when outside during dusk and dawn hours,” Cape May County Health Officer Kevin Thomas said. “As it gets darker earlier in the evening, you and your children may be outside increasingly during these high-risk periods.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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