Mosquito-Borne Illnesses Hit Burlco Early

Long sleeves can protect against mosquito bites, officials say. MICHAEL PLUNKETT / Staff Photographer

Officials say the recent heavy rains could be the reason Burlco has had early cases this year of a deadly horse virus and the West Nile Virus, which are both carried by mosquitos.

Last week, a three-year-old mare in Westampton had to be euthanized after officials confirmed it was suffering from Eastern Equine Encephalitis.   

"It is very early in the season to see Eastern Equine Encephalitis so horse owners need to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.  It was the first case in the state this year.

Last year, the state had only one case of EEE and one case of equine West Nile virus.  They were discovered in October after Hurricane Irene and its aftermath caused flooding that led to higher than normal mosquito populations. 

Last month, Burlco also had its first reported case of West Nile Virus.  The potentially fatal virus was detected in a trapped mosquito near the Sewerage Treatment Plant in Pemberton Township.  The county sets out traps to monitor the disease.

This is the earliest detection of West Nile Virus in the county, officials said.  Last year the first positive findings did not turn up until late July.  There were a total of 38 confirmed cases last year. 

"This should serve as a reminder to all residents to take every precaution against mosquitoes." said Burlington County Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien, who oversees the Health Department.  "Use mosquito repellent, wear long sleeves and long pants, and try to limit outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active, during dawn and dusk."