Even though sentinel chickens set up to monitor a possible outbreak West Nile virus show no signs of the disease in Hudson County, Hudson County officials said recently that they will continue to spray against mosquito egg hatching in at-risk areas. Last year, four people in the New York area died as a result of the virus and 33 others were reported to have contracted the disease. While no cases of the disease were reported in Hudson County, tests done by the state and federal government determined that the disease had infected local mosquitoes and birds. Sentinel chickens were placed around the state and county in an effort to get an early warning. Congressman Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.) met with Dr. Stephen Ostroff, chairman of the federal government's West Nile Virus response team, on June 20 in Washington, D.C. after a dead crow in River Edge, N.J. was found to be infected. River Edge is in Bergen County just above Hackensack. "I am determined to do all I can to protect the public from this potentially deadly virus," Rothman said. On June 27, the Hudson County Mosquito Control Department sprayed several hundred pounds of Vectobac-G, a bacteria. While toxic to mosquitoes when ingested, the bacteria is harmless to humans and other animals. The spraying - the third conducted since May - was done in designated areas throughout the county and was intended to coincide with Op Sail 2000 festivities during the week of the Fourth of July, when as many as four million people are expected to come into Hudson County to view the flow of ships down the Hudson River. "With the number of New Jerseyans expected to participate in the OpSail celebrations, we are trying to ensure the area is mosquito-free," said County Executive Robert Janiszewski. "We are encouraging everyone who comes to the waterfront to use precautions when they are outside." These precautions would include use of insect repellant and wearing of long sleeves and pants when possible. Earlier this year, Hudson County outlined a plan that called for increasing its spraying of mosquito breeding grounds on this side of the Hudson River. Combating the threat
A combined effort by federal, state and county authorities will double the financial effort to combat the potential threat by expending as much as $1.2 million this year. The effort will include a variety of escalating strategies to help cut down the number of mosquitoes in the area. Janiszewski said residents should remove standing water from their properties, avoid unnecessary exposure during the key mosquito-biting period at dawn and dusk, and look for symptoms that might indicate they have been exposed. 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 June 5, the State Mosquito Control Commission reported that none of these chickens had come up with the disease. 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 contains the most landscape for potential problems. While in most cases, spraying will be 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. Janiszewski said he saw no reason to close down parks or other public areas, but would not hesitate to do so if they pose a risk to the public. "We are committed to addressing this serious disease in a way which is not harmful to our residents and animals," Janiszewski said.