County sprays Berkeley Heights after virus found in mosquitoes

Union County officials have been spraying areas of Berkeley Heights after a mosquito pool tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. — A mosquito pool in the area around Emerson Lane near the Warren border has tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, a virus that causes an inflammation of the brain, prompting Union County officials to spray insecticide in several areas of the township.

The announcement was made on the Berkeley Heights township’s website Wednesday, Sept. 18, detailing that “all park areas will be sprayed … as well as wooded areas along the Passaic River corridor. Be advised that spraying will be curtailed if people are present.”

The spraying was planned for the early morning hours, between 3 and 6 a.m.

It added that the county, “will continue to spray the 20 to 25 most mosquito-heavy areas in town, also concentrating on the area in which the positive EEE test was found, around Emerson Lane. Neighboring Somerset County is also aggressively spraying. All activities will be held as scheduled.”

The state Department of Health issued an Aug. 16 press release saying that the first human case in the state of eastern equine encephalitis this summer was confirmed in an elderly Somerset County man, who was hospitalized and later discharged for continued rehabilitation.

In an Aug. 19 release, the NJDOH said two more cases, one in Union County and another in Atlantic County, had been confirmed, with the virus being detected in 65 mosquito samples in 13 counties.

The website said the virus is generally spread to humans through the bite of mosquitoes infected with the virus that are most active between the hours of dusk and dawn. Berkeley Heights residents are reminded to use bug spray, particularly outside during the hours of dawn and dusk, and to spray children, as well.

EEE can cause severe illness and possibly lead to death in any age group, but people under the age of 15 are at particular risk.

“We strongly encourage residents to use caution when outside,” Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Anthony Padovano said in the release. “Wear protective clothing, get rid of standing water around your house, and be sure to use adequate bug spray.”

Most people infected with eastern equine encephalitis have no apparent illness, however severe cases begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting four to 10 days after a mosquito bite. The illness may then progress to disorientation, seizures or coma.