After weeks of speculation as to when the first area crow would be found to be infected with the West Nile Virus, state officials reported finding one in Bayonne this week. Although birds were found elsewhere in the Meadowlands over the last few weeks, Hudson County officials hoped to get off without a reported case in their communities, but found their hopes dashed when the New Jersey Department of Health reported finding a crow on Avenue B in Bayonne with the disease last week. Last year, four people in the New York area died as a result of the deadly virus and 33 others were reported to have contracted the disease. Reports of other crows in New York and elsewhere in the Northern New Jersey showed that the disease had survived the winter. In anticipation of this possibility, the state and county authorities set up a plan in the spring to help cut down on the possible mosquito populations, which are responsible for spreading the disease. The county set up a program of spraying areas known to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and sending fogging machines to areas where adult mosquito populations have been a problem in the past. This includes areas in Jersey City, North Bergen, Secaucus, Kearny and other areas near wetland areas along the Hackensack River. The county has also addressed Liberty State Park where mosquitoes are frequently observed. In response to the finding in Bayonne, the state set up mosquito traps in Bayonne's Gregg Park to better ascertain the potential threat. Hudson County has asked the state to place additional traps in North Hudson Park to track the entrance of infected birds from Bergen County. While the county previously believed it could avert danger by continuing the program set up in the spring, it has now stepped up its efforts scheduling to conduct its fifth spraying of the season this week. "With surrounding communities finding infected birds, we thought the probability was high that eventually West Nile Virus would show up in Hudson County," said Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski. "Of course, we are stepping up our sprayings and target application in Bayonne and throughout the county to minimize its presence within our borders." Culex nigripalpus
, the mosquito that can spread the disease to humans, is a plain brownish insect that lays egg rafts in water, including water in artificial containers, polluted pools, roadside ditches and rain-diluted salt marshes. It feeds at night, taking blood from birds, mammals and reptiles and then passing it onto a human it might bite later. To detect potentially lethal mosquitoes, the state installed "sentinel chickens" which are tested routinely for the viruses. These were placed at various points around the county where mosquitoes are prevalent, including the Meadowlands and Liberty State Park. As of yet, officials reported that none of these chickens had come up with the disease. As with other New Jersey counties, the state Department of Mosquito Research and Control will be assisting Hudson County in the near future. By stepping up mosquito control efforts, county officials hope to use more traps to help keep track of the virus. The county will be using more pesticides locally and in the catch basins in Bayonne. The aerial spraying is designed to attack the larva using an environmentally-friendly chemical formula derived from corncobs that will destroy mosquito larva before they become airborne. Ground spraying, which utilizes chemicals designed to attack the adult mosquito, will be conducted in areas where officials determine a need. These areas will include parks throughout the county, wetland areas near the Belleville Turnpike, and areas in Secaucus, North Bergen and Jersey City, which contain the most landscape for potential problems. While in most cases, spraying is done in remote areas, some areas routinely used by the public may also need attention. In these instances, police will cordon off the area for the duration. Clearly seeking to avoid a public panic, Janiszewski noted last week that even though infected mosquitos were found last year in Hudson County, no human cases were confirmed anywhere in the state of New Jersey. "However, I continue to urge residents to do their part in controlling the population as well," Janiszewski said. "This includes most importantly removing stagnant water from their yards, but also protecting themselves with repellants and by wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts after dusk. By taking these common-sense steps to fighting mosquitos, we can reduce our chances of contracting the virus."