The first-ever positive test for the potentially fatal brain-infection-causing virus came from a mosquito sample collected Aug. 21 at Meadow Breeze Park in Washington Township, the county mosquito commission announced Friday.
The same sample also tested positive for West Nile virus, the county’s fourth this season.
“EEE is very rare, especially in northern NJ,” the mosquito commission said. Treatments are scheduled to kill mosquitoes in Washington Township, and more insects will be trapped for testing.
New Jersey has recorded one human case of EEE this year, in Somerset County. But the state health department says the virus has been found in 48 mosquito samples in 11 counties, the most the Garden State has seen by this point in the season in seven years.
The Eastern equine encephalitis virus is transmitted through mosquito bites. Human infections are rare – the CDC says New Jersey saw only one human case between 2009 and 2018.
But though they are infrequent, EEE infections can be very serious. The CDC says that about 30% of people infected die, and survivors could suffer from neurological problems. There is no vaccine for the illness.
The CDC says there are two kinds of infections that show symptoms after a four- to 10-day incubation period: A systemic infection is abrupt, lasting a week or two with chills, fever, malaise, and joint or muscle pain.
The other is encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Signs appear after a few days of systemic illness and can include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, a blueish color to the skin, convulsions, and coma.
“The most effective way to prevent infection from Eastern equine encephalitis virus,” the CDC says, “is to prevent mosquito bites.”
That means using insect repellents that contain DEET, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Also, dump or drain any standing water on your property to eliminate mosquito habitats. The Warren County Mosquito Commission says that one neglected swimming pool can produce more than 1 million mosquitoes and affect people up to five miles away.
To anonymously report a stagnant swimming pool, call the mosquito commission at 908-453-3585 or visit www.warrencountymosquito.org.