NJ reports first West Nile virus death

TRENTON, N.J. - September 7, 2012

Health officials announced Friday that a 77-year-old Willingboro man died in his home Sunday about two weeks after he developed fever, weakness, and respiratory illness that eventually led to his being hospitalized for a time.

Burlington County spokesman Ralph Shrom said officials confirmed it was West Nile on Saturday, a day before his death.

Authorities declined to provide the name of the patient in order to protect his family's privacy.

His death was the first linked to West Nile in New Jersey since 2010 and one of 15 confirmed cases in 12 counties spanning every part of the state, except the northwest corner.

Last year, there were seven confirmed cases in the state but no deaths. In 2010, there were 30 cases, including two deaths.

Cases typically peak in late summer or early fall.

It's been a bad year for the disease in other areas - and the worst ever in Texas.

The Centers for Disease Control said 1,993 cases nationwide have been reported to federal authorities this year - including more than 85 fatalities.

The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk of serious health complications.

Mosquitoes get the virus from feeding on infected birds and then spread the virus to people they bite.

Symptoms for both forms of West Nile can include headache, tiredness and fever. Those with the neuroinvasive form can also suffer from symptoms including coma, convulsions and paralysis.

Health officials said that about one-fifth of the people infected with the virus develop symptoms.

New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection is increasing the amount of funding for testing mosquitoes for the virus.

Officials say people should limit their exposure to the bugs my making sure screen doors and windows do not have holes, using insect netting on infant carriers and strollers, staying indoors and dusk and dawn and making sure there is no standing water on their properties. Mosquitoes can be hatched in any puddle that stands for four days or more.

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