New Jersey Spotlight reported: “Worldwide alarm over the West African Ebola virus outbreak has highlighted the fact that such infectious diseases are spreading due to increased travel.
And that globalization of viruses has led New Jersey health officials to take precautions against tropical diseases, including testing for a pair of mosquito-borne viruses.
They’re also alerting healthcare providers to the symptoms of Ebola, which led to one state resident being isolated for part of last week until it was determined that the person wasn’t exposed to Ebola.
The risk posed by Ebola to New Jerseyans is low, but mosquito-borne viruses are a more immediate threat.
The New Jersey Department of Health has started testing mosquitos for the chikungunya dengue viruses. Chikungunya can cause a high fever and rash for several days, as well as joint pains that can last for years. Dengue can have similar symptoms, but in rare cases it can be life-threatening.
So far, there have been 25 cases of New Jerseyans testing positive for chikungunya and 13 cases of dengue this year, but all 25 people had travelled to the Caribbean. While the area where chikungunya was endemic – or regularly found – was previously limited to that region, health officials in Florida identified mosquitos carrying the virus this year.
“We are trying to lean forward, so that we are able to monitor not just the human population when people are sick, but more importantly the vector population — the mosquito population — so that we can be ready to do the right surveillance to know whether this is something that is now endemic in our mosquito population,” state Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said. “It used to be that West Nile was new, so now we’re doing these tests for these other diseases.”
“I think what you’ve also seen in at least the last two years is a much more proactive effort to be outfront,” O’Dowd said of the state’s efforts.
The year’s first West Nile case was identified last week: a 49-year-old Gloucester County resident who is recovering at home. The state expects more cases through the rest of the summer.”
Click here to read the full NJS article “NJ Health Officials Say Risk is Low, But They’re Still on Watch for Ebola” by Andrew Kitchenman.
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Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H., is Clinical Professor, Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Adjunct Professor, Baruch College ( C.U.N.Y.), Rutgers School of Public Health, and Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.
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