New Jersey reports its earliest-ever case of West Nile virus

Public health officials in New Jersey are bracing for what looks to be a summer of increased West Nile virus.

“Today we reported the first West Nile Virus case of the year, the earliest ever in NJ’s mosquito season,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal tweeted Tuesday.

Last year, 61 people there were reportedly infected with West Nile, the most ever in the Garden State.

West Nile season in the United States usually stretches from June through September, the Mayo Clinic says.

As of June 25, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen 10 human cases of West Nile across Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wyoming.

Nationally, there were 2,544 cases of West Nile reported in 2018, according to the CDC, up from 2,002 reported cases the year before.

Symptoms include headaches, body aches and joint pain. Most people recover quickly, but fatigue can last weeks or months after infection. In more severe cases, people develop brain inflammation and meningitis. There’s no treatment for the virus itself.

About 1 in every 5 people infected with West Nile develops symptoms, and about 1 in 150 people will become seriously ill, according to the CDC.

West Nile has killed about 2,000 people since first being detected in the United States in 1999. It’s usually spread through bites from infected mosquitoes, not through human-to-human contact. It’s the most common disease transmitted from mosquitoes to humans in the United States, the CDC says.

To help prevent more infections, Elnahal urged people to wear long sleeves and pants when they’re outdoors, use EPA-registered insect repellents and drain any standing water in their yards.